UPDATE 1-Colombia's FARC candidate out of presidential race due to ill health

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BOGOTA, March 8 (Reuters) - Colombia's former FARC rebels will not field a candidate in the country's May presidential election as its hopeful, Rodrigo Londono, battles heart problems, the group said on Thursday.

The group will, however, have candidates in Sunday's congressional election, its first outing as an unarmed political party, after it demobilized under a 2016 peace deal with the government.

Known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, Londono had been the FARC's bet to replace President Juan Manuel Santos when the latter leaves office in August, but heart surgery on Wednesday has put him out of the race.

The group said attacks by the right wing, including protests at their events, were a further reason for pulling out of the presidential election.

Londono canceled campaigning last month after his motorcade was pelted with tomatoes and eggs by angry protesters.

"The surgery which took place yesterday, combined with already discussed features of the electoral campaign, has led us to decline our presidential aspirations," FARC senate candidate Ivan Marquez told journalists, reading from a statement.

Marquez said the group was open to backing a presidential candidate from a different party, so long as that person supports the peace deal.

Seventy-four FARC candidates for the lower and upper house of Congress will run in legislative elections on Sunday. The group is guaranteed ten seats in the body through 2026 under the terms of the peace deal but has said it hopes to win more.

The Shaio clinic said in a statement Londono is under observation and had also been suffering a pulmonary sickness and an obstructed cerebral artery.

The former FARC commander was unlikely to have garnered many votes from Colombians, many of whom believe its leaders should be in prison, not running for office. Recent polls have shown him with a maximum of 1 percent support. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb and Helen Murphy Editing by Helen Murphy)

03/08/2018 9:06

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