Banking for the FARC: Capitalism 101
Guerrillas who used to rob banks are now opening accounts.
During their decades-long war against the Colombian state, the supposedly pro-peasant guerrillas of the FARC were fond of bombing and torching branches of Banco Agrario in remote parts of the country.
A state-owned bank lending to farmers and rural-development projects, it was a tempting target on two counts: attacks were a blow against the state, and they often yielded sackfuls of cash.
With the ratification of a peace accord between the government and the FARC last year, the terrorist-target relationship is becoming more of a customer-company one.
After laying down their arms, more than 7,000 FARC guerrillas are opening bank accounts and picking up debit cards, many for the first time.
As part of their integration into law-abiding society, they are to receive from August a monthly stipend of 663,945 pesos ($220).
Each person will also get a one-time payment of 2m pesos to start a business.
The government has designated Banco Agrario, which has reopened dozens of bombed-out branches over the past decade, to take the lead in opening accounts for the ex-fighters.
Colombian banks have experience of catering to reformed irregulars.
They opened accounts for 30,000 right-wing paramilitary fighters who demobilized between 2003 and 2005.
But many of these were city-based and had banking histories.
Most FARC fighters, by contrast, have never left Colombia's backwaters or handled money other than cash.
Banco Agrario is leading workshops to teach them the basics of personal finance.
The FARC's new bankers have to be careful.