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This former guerrilla leader wants to be Colombia's next president

Former guerilla leader Rodrigo Londoño led thousands of Marxist rebel troops to surrender their weapons last year, ending years of armed struggle in Colombia.

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Nicole Chavez (CNN)
(CNN) — Former guerilla leader Rodrigo Londoño led thousands of Marxist rebel troops to surrender their weapons last year, ending years of armed struggle in Colombia.

And now, he wants to be Colombia's next president.

Londoño -- better known by his guerilla alias "Timochenko" --- was the top leader of Colombia's most powerful guerrilla force, FARC, throughout the group's lengthy peace negotiations with the government. But he has also been accused by the was also accused by US State Department. of controlling the FARC's cocaine operations and "the murder of hundreds of people."

US officials have offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

Supporters dressed in white shirts gathered Saturday in Bogota's neighborhood of Ciudad Bolivar, carrying posters with Londoño's photo as he officially announced his presidential bid.

"I'm committed to lead a transition government that will generate conditions for the birth of a new Colombia," Londoño told supporters. "For a government that will finally represent the interests of the poor."

Londoño is the first presidential candidate leading the FARC's new political party, Fuerza Alternativa Revolucionaria del Común" or "Common Alternative Revolutionary Force."

Colombia will hold its first round of presidential elections on May 27.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will end his second term in office in August and is not eligible for reelection.

From the countryside to the polls

The transition of the FARC from a guerilla into a political party was months in the making.

The Colombian government and the FARC signed a peace agreement in Havana in September 2016 following four years of negotiations and a 52-year civil war that claimed more than 200,000 lives.

Initially, Colombians rejected that agreement in a referendum vote, setting back negotiations. But it was then that the government invited opposition parties to revise the agreement, and the final deal was approved by Congress.

As part of the final accord, the group agreed to turn over their weapons to the United Nations and leave their jungle strongholds.

Last year, President Santos stressed that the purpose of the peace agreement was for the FARC to give up their arms and "to be political without violence".

In April, the Colombian Senate approved 10 congressional seats for former FARC combatants interested in holding elected office and four months later, the group unveiled the name and logo of its new political party.

FARC leaders have said their platform includes attacking corruption and fighting poverty in the country.

What is the FARC?

The FARC was formed in 1964 with rebels wanting to forcibly redistribute wealth inspired by the success of the Cuban revolution. Espousing anti-US and Marxist ideology, the group drew the overwhelming majority of its members from the rural poor.

It was funded by a sophisticated cocaine trafficking network and was armed with child soldiers.

The armed group seized territory, attacked government forces and interfered with political life through high-profile kidnappings.

Among the group's most notorious feats was the 2002 capture of presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who was held deep in the jungle for six years before a Colombian military operation rescued her.

Both the United States and European Union designated it as a terrorist group.

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