Tanja Nijmeijer, a Dutch woman who fights alongside Colombia's FARC rebels, hopes to see peace and social justice in the country thanks to peace talks set to begin next week.
"We have a lot of hope that at last the Colombian government will consent to the reforms the country needs and that at last, peace can reign," Nijmeijer told AFP in an exclusive interview the day after her arrival in Cuba, where she is to participate in the negotiations opening November 15.
Her vision, she said, is for more than an end to fighting: "not only silencing of weapons -- peace with social justice."
The 34-year-old, wearing a simple black shirt and olive green pants and speaking in perfect Spanish, honed during her decade in the jungle with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), said she was excited to be in Cuba, the only single-party communist state in the Americas.
"I've always wanted to see Cuba," she confessed with a bright grin. She used her first day in Havana to tour the old city along with other FARC members, including FARC number two Ivan Marquez.
"Cuba is an example for the world. Here, one doesn't see poverty in the street. People are well-dressed, and there aren't beggars," Nijmeijer said.
Picture displayed on the homepage of ANNCOL (New Colombia News Agency- http://anncol.eu/) website showing Dutch FARC rebel Tanja Nijmeijer, aka Alexandra upon arrival in Havana on November 5.
Designated a spokeswoman for the Marxist guerrilla group during the negotiations, the Dutch woman was the last of the rebel delegates to arrive in Cuba.
She translates for the rebels, teaches Marxist principles and helps with public communications.
In Cuba the talks will start with the thorny issue of rural development. Colombia has wide income disparities, with many rural areas lacking basic services and infrastructure.
The talks will also address land distribution. Colombia's countryside is full of large plots mostly owned by the wealthy and little land is available to small farmers who want their own plots.
Land reform was at the heart of a peasant uprising in the 1960s that saw the formation of FARC. Access to farmland remains an important issue in a country where half the population lives in poverty.
The four other main points on the agenda are the rebels' future role in political life, a definitive end to hostilities, fighting the illegal drug trade and the situation of victims.
As with other delegates, Colombia's attorney general had to lift arrest warrants pending against Nijmeier.
She is also sought by the US for the 2003 kidnapping of three Americans -- held captive for five years before being freed in a daring operation by Colombian commandos in 2008.
Rebels have asked for fellow FARC member Simon Trinidad, serving a 60-year-sentence in the US for the same kidnappings, to be pardoned so he can participate in the talks.
On Wednesday, the day after President Barack Obama's re-election for a second term, the rebels appealed to him directly for Trinidad's release. The US has so far refused.
The inclusion of Nijmeijer -- the rebels' only known European recruit -- among the peace talk delegates was also controversial. It was seen by the government side as an attempt by FARC to curry favor in Europe and bolster its international image.
FARC is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
She dismissed Colombia's allegations against her.
"All these legal excuses don't stand up -- they're all political. It makes them mad that a foreigner is involved in the conflict and speaks positively about the FARC," she said.
Asked about her private life, the young woman deflected, saying "it's been 10 years since I got married to the the people's army, and that's fine with me."
Founded in 1964 and Latin America's largest rebel group with 9,200 armed fighters, the FARC may be ready for peace after a long string of setbacks.
In recent years, the group has suffered the capture and killing of some of its top leaders, and the depletion of its ranks to half what they were at their peak in the 1990s.
These are to be the first peace negotiations in a decade after three previous failed attempts.