Category: FARC
Manuel “Tirofijo” Marulanda: Colombia’s legendary guerrilla leader remembered

Friday, May 12, 2017

Manuel “Tirofijo” Marulanda: Colombia’s legendary guerrilla leader remembered

https://communismgr.blogspot.com/2017/05/manuel-tirofijo-marulanda-colombias.html

On the occassion of the 87 years since the birth of the Colombian guerrilla leader, founder of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People’s Army (FARC-EP) Manuel “Tirofijo” Marulanda (1930-2008), we remember some basic aspects of his life. 

Manuel “Tirofijo” Marulanda: Father of the FARC.

Manuel Marulanda Velez, founder of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and its leader until his death, was a man firmly and decisively committed to the campesinos of Colombia and their liberation.
It is said that Marulanda was so thoroughly a man of the countryside that in his entire life he never set foot in the Colombian capital of Bogota.
He died of natural causes eight years ago today, March 26, 2008.
Born Pedro Antonio Marin, he adopted his new moniker in honor of one of the founders of the Colombian Communist Party.
The adoption of a fallen comrade’s name is an old tradition amongst the Latin American Left. Famed Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa took the name of a murdered colleague. Subcommandante Marcos of the Zapatistas would follow this tradition, abandoning that name in favor of Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano in 2014 after a member of the rebel group killed by paramilitaries.
Marulanda’s legend predates the founding of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – Army of the People, as the FARC is formally known.
He was also known as “Tirofijo” or “Sureshot” for his shooting acumen.
Marulanda was among those caught up in the conflict between Liberals and Conservatives known as La Violencia. He would come to be a leading figure in the “Independent Republic of Marquetalia,” a remote rural enclave under the influence of the Communist Party.
After the end of La Violencia, the government viewed Marquetalia and other so-called independent republics as a threat to the state’s hegemony and sent the army to crush it.
Marulanda, along with 48 others, narrowly escaped this military operation. He would turn this small group of rebels into one of the largest and longest-lasting guerrilla armies in the world.
It was the way that Marulanda carried himself that made him such an effective organizer of campesinos. They saw themselves in him, though others in the FARC were dedicated to the ideological development of the rebel group, it was Marulanda that made it grow.
At its peak and under Marulanda’s leadership the FARC counted on 20,000 fighters and controlled an estimated 40 percent of the country, primarily in the countryside, but also held considerable influence in the poor neighborhoods of Colombia’s cities.
Marulanda was a veteran of two unsuccessful peace efforts between the FARC and the government. He was famously asked during negotiations in the 1980’s what he would do if peace was achieved. Marulanda’s answer was, “I will go back to my childhood farm in Genova, if it is still there.”
In some ways it is as a result of his loyalty to the countryside and the campesino that Marulanda is not a well-known figure, even among the Left.
Though in the capital of revolutionary Venezuela there is a plaza named after him, which also features a bust of the FARC founder, located in the historically combative working-class neighborhood of 23 de Enero.
The campesino roots of the FARC remains within the rebels today, which has emphasized during peace talks, above all else, the need for agrarian reform to benefit the campesinos.
Marulanda was so reviled by the Colombian political elite that the state on countless occasions proclaimed his death, only to be disproved later.
Manuel Marulanda finally did die on March 26, 2008, as a result of heart failure but his legacy lives on, as the song by FARC songwriter Julian Conrado, states, “Now Colombia is full of Manueles.”
From Poor Campesino to Colombia’s Most Wanted.
Source: Telesur.
The U.S. military led a mission to Colombia in the early 1960s that warned its government that it was ill-prepared for the “communist threat” facing the country. In 1964, following the military guidelines advised by the U.S., the Colombian state launched a fierce military mission to bomb and destroy Marquetalia, a self-governing communist campesino community. Amongst those who survived the attack, where napalm bombs were used, was a young campesino leader named Pedro Antonio Marin Marin, later known by his noms de guerre, Manuel Marulanda.
The following year two French documentary makers entered Colombia and convinced the authorities to allow them to film rare birds in the Colombian mountains of the Huila department. What they actually recorded was the first film appearance of the young Marulanda — or Tirofijo, Sureshot, due to his accuracy with firearms — by then the most wanted man in the country.
Unable to defeat him and his modest but capable guerrilla group, the country’s press was used as a tool to characterize them as bandits rather than revolutionaries. Marulanda used his appearance in the French documentary to clarify to the world that the Colombian press was being used as a propaganda machine by the state and that the campesinos were, in fact, defending themselves from the violence employed against them by the military.
In spite of the government and the national media doing all they could to vilify Marulanda and his guerrilla group, he became a legend to the multitudes of poor campesinos and within left organizations in the cities. In their desperation to stop his becoming a personality like Fidel Castro or Che Guevara, he was reported as having been killed in combat several times throughout his long life, only to reappear as defiant as ever. In one of the last interviews he gave before dying of natural causes in 2008, he mockingly recounted, “It has been reported that I have been wounded several times, but even those are false.”
Once the armed campesinos began to go on the offensive against military forces and sought to take power under the name of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in 1964, it became a tool of the state and the mainstream media to effectively characterize the insurgents as criminals, narcos and terrorists. These labels have been consistently used throughout the decades, including up to today. Notwithstanding, an investigation commissioned by Colombia’s public prosecution office in 2014 concluded that the FARC should not be labeled narcos nor terrorists.
For centuries ruling oligarchs in Latin America have attempted to portray political leaders and revolutionaries as bandits, criminals and terrorists. When Micaela Bastidas and Tupac Amaru II organized an insurgency against the Spanish colonialists, they too were treated and labeled as criminals and their dismembered bodies were exhibited around Peru as traitors.
Revolutionary leaders Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata were also made out as bandits looking out for their own interests by the Mexican political elite. In more recent history Fidel Castro’s characterization as a ‘violent dictator’ by the right-wing in Miami inspired them to celebrate his death. All of these historical figures were committed to achieving social justice for the oppressed masses. During their lives, each one was portrayed as an enemy of progress and the people.
In his career as the FARC’s leader for almost half a century, Marulanda persistently sat down with different Colombian administrations in an attempt to bring about a peaceful solution to the conflict. The first major peace process started in 1982 under president Belisario Betancur and culminated with the signing of an agreement in 1984 that was supposed to guarantee the political rights of the left opposition. Out of these talks emerged the Patriotic Union, a political party founded by the FARC and the Colombian Communist Party.
What followed was the genocide of more than 5,000 of its leaders and members, in what has been described as the political extermination of an entire political party. This incredibly violent outcome from the “peace deal” undoubtedly gave Marulanda zero confidence in the promises made by the Colombian state and set the tone for all the talks that followed. Nevertheless, the present peace deal which is now being implemented is, according to the FARC, a result of Marulanda’s long struggle to achieve revolutionary peace in the country.
Paramilitary death squads, on the other hand, were designed and maintained to protect the established power of the political, capitalist and landowning elite. In fact, it was during the early years of the campesino uprisings in the 1960s that the U.S., through Colonel William Yarborough, advised the Colombian government to create and train death squads to combat the threat of communism. These groups continue to terrorize and kill campesinos and social leaders in the country.
These two armed groups are so antithetical to each other, that with the demobilization of the FARC there have been increasing reports of paramilitary repression and murder of campesinos who have been left exposed by the void left by the guerrilla forces.
Manuel Marulanda with Alfonso Cano.
Manuel Marulanda was neither the cause nor the aggressor in the more than 50-year war that has plagued Colombia. He was part of the response of the oppressed campesinos against a government that has always insisted in prioritizing capitalist and imperialist interests above those of its people. The “Warrior of Peace,” as he is known to radicals in Latin America, has left a legacy that may indeed be smeared by mainstream media, but that continues to inspire revolutionary change in Colombia and the entire region.
His more than 50 years of struggle in the mountains and jungles of Colombia have greatly influenced the peace accords and its trajectory that puts forward a radical proposal for change with social justice and participation that would not have been possible if Manuel Marulanda had not devoted his life to the Colombian people.
Colombian prisoner David Ravelo must go free, now!

In an open letter we ask Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to order his government to release political prisoner David Ravelo. We invite individuals and organizations to endorse the letter. To do so, please send a name, city, state or province, and country to W.T. Whitney at: atwhit@roadrunner.com. The letter and names will be delivered to Colombian officials in mid-January.

  1. T. Whitney Jr. prepares this letter which is a project of The North American Committee for the Defense of David Ravelo. In 2012 the Committee sent a solidarity delegation to Colombia on Ravelo’s behalf.

 

The Honorable Juan Manuel Santos

President, Republic of Colombia

 

Dear Mr. President,

 

Sir, those who sign this letter hold that the case against prisoner David Ravelo (cédula de ciudadanía 13.887.558) collapsed long ago under the weight of lies and a quite illegitimate prosecution.   With respect, we ask that you instruct your government to release Mr. Ravelo from prison. We point to a long, unvarying record of injustice against Ravelo.

 

David Ravelo was arrested September 14, 2010 in Barrancabermeja, Colombia. Charged with plotting to murder municipal official David Núñez Cala in 1991, he is serving an 18 – year term. Appeals have failed. His case is now before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

 

Ravelo, we think, is emblematic of thousands of political prisoners in limbo now as Colombia implements its peace accord. Imprisoned combatants and civilian political prisoners may soon be eligible for amnesty. Ravelo needs to be one of them.

 

Barrancabermeja, Ravelo’s native city, produces 60 percent of Colombia’s oil products. In the late 1980s the Patriotic Union (UP) electoral coalition entered local politics. Soon David Ravelo was a UP member of Barrancabermeja’s city council and a UP delegate to the Santander Assembly. At the time, however, killers were targeting UP activists in Barrancabermeja, and nationally.

 

Charged with rebellion in 1993, Ravelo went to prison for 27 months.   By the late 1990s, paramilitaries controlled the city and its surroundings. They massacred 36 Barrancabermeja inhabitants on May 16, 1998 and 17 more on February 28, 1999.

 

In Barrancabermeja, Ravelo was a labor organizer, community educator, and journalist. He is a longtime member of the Colombian Communist Party’s Central Committee. Barrancabermeja’s Catholic Diocese honored Ravelo in 2008 for his 30 years dedicated to defending human rights. In response to paramilitary violence, he founded and directed the CREDHOS human rights organization. Many CREDHOS leaders subsequently were killed or threatened.

 

Ravelo in 2007 circulated a video, viewable here, showing President Alvaro Uribe socializing with Barrancabermeja paramilitary leaders in 2001.   The U.S. government, Colombia’s military ally, had complained about Uribe’s ties to paramilitaries. We suspect that the video, embarrassing to President Uribe, provoked his taking action against Ravelo.

 

Persecution, lies, and vengeance

 

Colombia’s government in 1999 convicted paramilitary leaders Mario Jaimes Mejía (alias “Panadero’) and Fremio Sánchez Carreño for organizing the two Barrancabermeja massacres. Each received a 20 year sentence. Having accused them, David Ravelo played a role in their downfall.

From Itagüí prison, paramilitary leader Roberto Pérez Álzate “gave the order,” says Ravelo, for Jaimes Mejía “to take revenge and accuse David Ravelo Crespo and José Arístides Andrade” of murdering David Núñez Cala in 1991.

Jaimes confessed to organizing the massacres of 1998 and 1999 in order to qualify for the Justice and Peace Law of 2005. According to that law, paramilitary leaders telling the truth and demobilizing troops would serve eight years in prison. In 2008 Jaimes confessed to the Núñez Cala murder and named Ravelo and ex- congressperson Arístides Andrade as accomplices. He claimed they attended a meeting in Barrancabermeja where the murder was planned. Again, accusations against Ravelo would ease his entry into the Justice and Peace program.

 

Jaime’s paramilitary associate Fremio Sánchez also confessed to the massacres and to his role in the Núñez Cala murder. He too implicated Ravelo and Arístides Andrade in order to qualify for Justice and Peace.

 

Jaimes Mejía was a FARC member when he killed Núñez Cala; only later would he join the paramilitaries. Accusing Ravelo of ties to the FARC, he showed investigators a 1985 photo of Ravelo attending a peace meeting with FARC leaders at a forest encampment. Authorities had used the old photo to put Ravelo in prison in 1993. Ravelo went free when the “Ravelo” in the photo was shown to be someone else, a journalist.

 

In the clutches of the law

 

The prosecution and trial of Ravelo revealed terrible procedural failings. The court, for example, accepted Jaimes Mejía’s accusation – a lie – that Ravelo and Andrade participated in a murder. Colombia’s Attorney General on August 20, 2014 charged him with lying, and a judicial unit specializing in false witnesses is investigating. Between May 26, 2015 and October 27, 2016, however, six scheduled court sessions were canceled.

 

Further, the prosecutor in Ravelo’s case, William Pacheco Granados, is a criminal. As a police lieutenant in 1991 he arranged for the “forced disappearance” of a young man. A military court convicted him; he spent a year in prison. Law 270 of 1996 prohibits anyone dismissed from “any public office” or convicted of a crime from joining “the judicial branch.” Now Pacheco Granados faces civil prosecution for murder.

 

And, the criminality of Ravelo’s accuser, Mario Jaimes Mejía, seems limitless. Jaimes arranged for journalist Yineth Bedoya to be kidnapped before she was to interview him in prison in 2000. She was beaten and raped. Jaimes received a 28 – year sentence.

 

There’s more: Jaimes Mejía bribed fellow prisoners to testify that Ravelo and Arístides Andrade attended the meeting where the murder was planned. Jaimes used prisoner Fremio Sánchez to recruit them, according to witnesses at Ravelo’s trial. Prison officials facilitated meetings to enable Jaimes and Sánchez to conspire against Ravelo.

 

And, none of Ravelo’s 30 defense witnesses were allowed to testify during the trial proceedings. Prosecutor Pacheco closed his pre-trial investigation without hearing testimony as to Ravelo’s innocence.

 

And, four weeks elapsed between Ravelo being convicted and the actual announcement of his conviction on December 11, 2012. This “flagrant violation of due process” delayed preparations for Ravelo’s appeal.

 

Lastly, the atmosphere surrounding Ravelo’s trial was grim; “family members and members of Ravelo’s CREDHOS organization continually suffered paramilitary death threats and harassment while the trial was in progress.”

 

Ravalo summarizes: “[T]he paramilitaries had ‘reasons’ for wanting to eliminate me. That’s why … they tried to assassinate me physically, but didn’t succeed. They decided to eliminate me judicially, and for that they implemented ‘the judicial façade,’ using the lie as their favorite weapon. It’s clear, therefore, that the truth is the first victim of war.”

On the developments in Colombia and the peace agreement

Friday, October 14, 2016

On the developments in Colombia and the peace agreement

https://communismgr.blogspot.com/2016/10/on-developments-in-colombia-and-peace.html
On the developments in Colombia.
Οriginally published in ‘Rizospastis’, 9 October 2016.
Source: inter.kke.gr.
 
As is well-known, on Sunday 2 October, the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) was put to a referendum. In the referendum, where only the 37% of the eligible voters participated, the agreement was rejected by a 50.2% vote.
The agreement was finalized after four years of negotiations that took place in Oslo and Havana and aimed at putting an end to the armed conflict which began in 1964, when FARC-CP was founded as a response to the attack of the bourgeois army against the rural population of the Marquetalia region (1). At the same time, it had been announced that talks will also be pursued with the country’s other significant guerrilla organization, the National Liberation Army (ELN).
The massacre against the “Patriotic Union”.
Previous peace efforts had taken place in the past, with the most known being the talks and peace process in 1982-1984 with the Belisario Betancur government, which led to the foundation of the “Patriotic Union” (UP), as a legal party created by FARC-EP and the Colombian Communist Party. This process was literally drowned in blood by the bourgeois state and para-state. Within a decade more than 5,000 members and cadres of the “Patriotic Union” had been assassinated, including 2 presidential candidates, 7 senators, 13 members of parliament, 11 mayors and 69 municipal councilors, while thousands were forced to become political refugees abroad.
All these years, the USA, the EU and other imperialist powers stood by the side of the bourgeois state by providing generous economic, military and political support. The USA and the EU included FARC-EP in the list of terrorist organisations, while after the death of the FARC cadre Raul Reyes, in 2008 in Ecuador a real witch-hunt was unleashed, under the pretext of “information” that was found on his computer in their bombarded camp. On the other side, the overwhelming majority of Latin America’s communist parties and many organisations of the peoples’ and youth movement, regionally as well as internationally, stood by the side of FARC-EP and the country’s popular movement.
Regarding the “Havana agreement”.
On 23 June 2016, the FARC and the government signed a final ceasefire and a disarmament agreement and on 24 August the 297 page-long final peace agreement, which was put to a referendum vote, was published. The 10th  Conference of FARC which ratified the agreement took place on 17-23 September.
The peace agreement consists of various agreements which are summarized in 6 chapters. It provides for a disarmament process of the FARC in 22 “transition zones- villages” and 6 smaller camps, where the FARC fighters would gather and stay for 6 months and where their private weapons would be gathered and destroyed by the UN, while 3 months after the beginning of the  peace agreement’s implementation the rest of their stored weapons would be destroyed.
The agreement reinforces the bourgeois state’s monopoly on violence, the condemnation of the revolutionary struggle, promotes social consensus and assimilation, acknowledges that the upper hand belongs to the bourgeoisie and its state and in the final analysis undermines the class struggle.
For example, it is clearly written: “The Government and the FARC-EP agree […] to ensure the legal monopoly of the state on violence and the use of weapons…” (2), a formulation which, with variations, is repeated at several points. Furthermore, it is noted: “The national government and the new political movement which will arise from the transition of FARC-EP to legal political activity, undertake to promote a National Political Accord with the political parties and movements, the labour unions, the vital forces of the nation”.(3)
On the other hand, the agreement does not refer at all to important issues such as the 8 military bases of the USA or to the very significant issue of the agreement signed between Colombia and NATO during the negotiations on 25 June 2013.
The KKE and several organizations of our country’s peoples movement, for many decades, stood in solidarity with the struggle of the Colombian people and FARC. They categorically rejected the characterization of FARC as a terrorist organisation and demanded its removal from the EU list of terrorist groups, as well as the abolition of the list itself.
The KKE demanded the recognition of the guerrilla organisations FARC-EP and ELN as warring parties, the release of those who are jailed in the US and of the more than 7,500 political prisoners in Colombia, the rehabilitation of those displaced. It expressed multifaceted solidarity with the struggle of the Colombian people for a Colombia without the exploitation of man by man, for peace with social justice. For a new Colombia, where the people’s will and soveriegnty will be respected, without hunger, but with jobs, houses, health and education for everybody.
We decisively confronted the bourgeois and opportunist forces which were using Colombia in order to attack the peoples’ revolutionary struggle itself. The great difficulties of a prolonged struggle are evident, especially in conditions of a very negative correlation of forces, which are marked by the effects of the counterrevolution and the temporary retreat of the labour and revolutionary movement, by the crisis in which the international communist movement continues to find itself.
The additional barriers and the difficulties which arise from the generous support of imperialism to the Colombian bourgeois state- from the provision of modern means of warfare, from the intensity of the collaboration between the bourgeois states and their mechanisms in the area through a dense network of interstate alliances and organisations- are apparent.
The causes of the major problems that the Colombian people experience-repression, poverty and misery-are inherent to the capitalist system, the power of the monopolies, the bourgeois state, the bourgeois parties and their antipeople policies. And these remain intact after the deal.
The agreement is not judged on the basis of whether it leads to a change in the forms of struggles, something that is the responsibility and obligation of every revolutionary party or movement to choose depending on the conditions and the requirements of the class struggle in its country. The specific agreement is judged by whether (or not) it engages the peoples’ movement of the country in serious, unacceptable concessions to the bourgeoisie and its power, which will disarm it politically and ideologically, thus objectively paving the way for developments that will lead either to the escalation of repression or to its cooption by the system, or to both simultaneously.
Firm internationalist solidarity with the labour-peoples movement of Colombia.
The working class, the popular strata of every country must advance their own interests, their own slogans and goals of struggle in opposition to the domination of capital and its power, in conflict with imperialism, for the right of every people to choose their own path of development. It is necessary to systematically monitor the developments and to maintain a decisive stance at the side of the labour-peoples movement, against any aim to exploit any developments to intensify the persecution and repression. We firmly express our internationalist solidarity with the struggles for the workers-peoples’ rights, for the abolition of exploitation, for a new Colombia with the people in power.
(1)   Read the article “ Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army – 37 years of struggles for the New Colombia”, by Raul Reyes on KOMEP 6/2001, especially written for KOMEP (Communist Review).
(2)   Page 70 of the agreement.(Unofficial translation from the Spanish original)
(3)   Page 72 of the agreement. (Unofficial translation from the Spanish original)
Peace Deal in Colombia Should Inspire Warring Nations to Settle Conflicts – UN
| September 28, 2016 | 8:14 pm | Analysis, FARC, political struggle | No comments
10:28 27.09.2016(updated 10:33 27.09.2016)
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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed a ceasefire which has ended a half-century war between the Colombian government and FARC rebels.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Achieving peace in Colombia after 50 years of war in the country should be an example and inspiration to all the states trying to reach truce and has already become a lesson for peacemakers worldwide, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “You had the vision to bring the victims to the forefront. What they have lost can never be restored. Yet victims have been among the most forceful voices for peace and reconciliation, and against bitterness and hatred. Their example should be an inspiration to all…. Peacemakers working in other parts of the world are already studying Colombia’s peace process for lessons that can inform their efforts,” Ban said at the signing of the Colombia peace agreements. He also pledged to continue to help the government implement the peace agreements and normalize the situation in the war-shattered country. “We will continue to offer our support to address the human rights and humanitarian challenges that persist. I am encouraged to know that there is already excellent collaboration among the Mission, the larger UN system in the country and our Colombian partners,” Ban continued. On Monday, the formal signing of a peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government took place in the Colombian city of Cartagena. The representatives of the European Union, the United Nations, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) attended the ceremony. Colombia was mired in a half-century war between the FARC and the Colombian government, which has claimed lives of a quarter of a million people. The two parties began peace talks in November 2012.

Read more: https://sputniknews.com/latam/20160927/1045734393/un-farc-colombia-ceasefire.html

Alexandra Nariño, a Dutch FARC rebel speaks about Colombia’s War and Peace
| August 22, 2016 | 8:04 pm | Analysis, FARC, political struggle | No comments

Δευτέρα, 22 Αυγούστου 2016

Alexandra Nariño, a Dutch FARC rebel speaks about Colombia’s War and Peace

 http://communismgr.blogspot.com/2016/08/alexandra-narino-dutch-farc-rebel.html
FARC guerrilla fighter and delegate in the peace negotiations, Alexandra Nariño, speaks to teleSUR about her 14 years with the rebel army / Source: telesurtv.net.
Alexandra Nariño is not Colombian, yet the impending end of the South American country’s 50-year civil war between the government and left-wing rebel forces represents “enormous happiness” for her.
That’s because the Dutch national has been fighting within Colombia’s FARC guerilla army for 14 years. After living in the jungle in FARC camps for about a decade, for the last four years Nariño has played a key role in the peace process in Havana, Cuba, that aims to transition Colombia out of the longstanding internal conflict and toward a new era of peace.
But though Nariño, also known as Tanja Nijmeijer, is from the Netherlands, she says her reasons for deciding to take up arms as part of the left-wing rebel movement were the same as those that pushed her Colombian fellow combatants to join — a claim she admits may be hard for many to believe.
“I came to Colombia, I saw the injustice and I felt that something had to be done,” Nariño told teleSUR from Havana, the site of the peace talks. “The only difference might be that I didn’t really live the injustice … I saw the state violence, but I didn’t suffer it.”
Nariño joined the FARC in 2002 after being impacted by the level of inequality and state-sanctioned human rights abuses in Colombia during a year-long stint as an English teacher in 1998. “I think for me it was just enough to know that people (are) suffering to make the decision to join and show my solidarity with them,” she said.
At the time, the armed conflict was in full swing. The notorious United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, an illegal paramilitary militia also known as AUC, had launched in the previous year and established a cold-blooded reputation by brutally slaughtering at least 30 people in an attack known as the Mapiripan Massacre in July 1998. A U.S. State Department report on human rights in Colombia the same year documented ongoing problems of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, attacks on civilians by paramilitaries and some cases of “social cleansing” at the hands of police.
Then, in 2000, then-Presidents Bill Clinton and Andres Pastrana launched Plan Colombia, the multi-billion dollar counternarcotics and counterinsurgency military aid package widely condemned by human rights advocates to have been a disaster that spurred massacres, empowered death squads, and exacerbated and prolonged the civil war. Nariño joined the FARC just two years later, the same year far-right, allegedly paramilitary-linked former President Alvaro Uribe entered office.
Nearly a decade and a half later, Nariño remains committed to the fight that “has always been a political struggle,” saying that her “awareness that there’s still a lot to be done” has kept her in the FARC all these years. She’s also optimistic about the much-anticipated new phase dawning on the country through the peace process, which she sees as offering new spaces in the “struggle for a just society,” including the FARC’s participation in electoral politics.
“Many people talk about the transition of the FARC into a political movement,” she said. “Many people don’t know that we have always been a political movement. We were a military-political movement, and now we will be a political movement.”
The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, formed as a rebel army connected to the Colombian Communist Party in 1964 in the wake of a bloody ten-year conflict between Liberals and Conservatives that ravaged mostly rural areas and gave way to a crackdown on self-organized communist communities. The guerrilla uprising was founded on revolutionary Marxist and anti-imperialist demands for agrarian reform and defending the rights of rural peasants. After more than 50 years, these continue to be central issues on the FARC’s agenda and and have formed important cornerstones of the peace process that began in Havana in 2012. “War can become all consuming … but I don’t think that this means that you lose the sense of what you’re fighting for,” said Nariño in reference to how the movement has stayed connected to its roots after all these years.
She added that political education and consciousness-building is part of “daily life” in the FARC. One internal process has been developing the movement with respect to gender equality in response to the “machismo” that pervades mainstream Colombian society. Women make up nearly 40 percent of the FARC, and while progress has been made, the issue remains an ongoing “everyday” struggle. “In Colombian society you wouldn’t find a community or a group where men and women cook, wash their clothes, go to combat, carry heavy loads, etc.,” said Nariño “In the jungle, everything is on an equal basis. But, this doesn’t mean we don’t have to keep working on it.” A gender perspective has also been incorporated in the peace agreements with a special subcommission in the negotiations process.
The talks in Havana have achieved landmark partial deals on issues of transitional justice, rights of victims, agrarian reform, crop substitution for coca production, and other matters. Earlier this year, the two sides of the conflict signed a historic bilateral cease-fire agreement, a key step in bringing an end to the war that has claimed over 220,000 lives and uprooted some 6.3 million people, mostly Indigenous and Afro-Colombian.
“Sometimes I feel a little sad when think of all the people who were comrades of mine who died in the jungle, and now I think they could have made a huge contribution here in Havana and of course in the construction of a new country,” said Nariño. “That is difficult for me to accept … They were young people who could have contributed a lot.” But for Nariño, there’s a lot of reason to be optimistic. “I know how Colombian people have suffered the conflict, and I think it means an opportunity for everyone to start the construction of a new country, to start a new page in the book of history of Colombia,” she said.
Despite being on the much-heralded brink of peace, important challenges remain. Outstanding issues at the negotiation table include the future political participation of the FARC, the reincorporation of demobilized rebels into society, and other important end-of-conflict measures. Meanwhile, former President Uribe has been fearmongering with far-right rhetoric and pushing for a “No” vote in the plebiscite on the peace agreement, expected within months of signing the deal. “It doesn’t make any sense to vote against peace,” argued Nariño, saying that Colombia’s “extreme-right” has used a series of “false slogans” to obscure the many positive aspects of the peace agreements, from plans for land redistribution to substituting illicit coca production for other crops and specialized peace tribunals to try alleged war criminals.
“It has become clear that the people who are against the peace process are not the victims of the conflict … they are not the people who have really suffered,” she continued. “They are the people who take advantage of and profit from the conflict.”
The plebiscite on the peace agreement will need to secure a 13 percent threshold to pass. Even in the unlikely event that Colombians vote down the deal, a “No” vote would not mean that the government could reopen negotiations with the FARC on specific issues, the government’s lead negotiator Humberto de la Calle has said.
Even after the peace accords are finally signed, which could happen as early as in a matter of weeks, many challenges will of course remain to rebuild the society ravaged by over five decades of conflict.
“I think that the main challenge for Colombian society will be reconciliation,” said Nariño, pointing to what she described as two divergent Colombias that must be reunited to offer opportunities and provide for the basic needs of all, not just a privileged sector of society. “We will keep on working for reconciliation, social justice and peace in Colombia and we’ll make sure that those two Colombias disappear and become one.”
But the road to this point has not been easy. Nariño says it’s a “pretty tough life” in the FARC and that she has “suffered the stigma” like other rebel fighters nationally and internationally. She argues that the media, especially in Colombia, has had a role in whipping up this contempt while also showing a “lack of teaching peace” in society. The Dutch rebel fighter faces terrorism charges in the U.S., while her home country of the Netherlands recently approved a law that allows the country to revoke the citizenship of citizens who join so-called terrorist organizations abroad. Both the United States and European Union list the FARC as a terrorist organization.
In Colombia, the FARC and other guerrilla groups have evidently faced harsh criticism over the years, such as accusations of alleged forced recruitment of child soldiers. The organization has denied the charges, maintaining that the forces accepted young victims while highlighting the conditions of war that often force people to make hard choices. Earlier this year, the FARC banned all recruits under 18 years old and agreed to send home all soldiers under 15.
“We know that in Colombia the situation for children is very tough, and that many times they seek refuge in our camps, sometimes even younger than 15,” said Nariño, singling out examples such as paramilitary violence, domestic violence, and lack of access to education and housing as situations of desperation that push young people into the guerrilla. “But we as the FARC also know of course that war is not a scenario for children to live in and we were more than willing to make this decision as a gesture towards the construction of peace.”
That construction of peace, though, is only in its infancy as Latin America’s longest-running civil war draws to a close. “We have said many times that peace is not only decided by weapons,” Nariño added. “It is a long term construction and it should involve social justice, opportunities, employment, healthcare, housing, dignified living conditions for everyone.” The country is home to the world’s second-largest population of internationally displaced people after Syria.
The FARC now has around 8,000 combatants, down from some 20,000 or more at its peak in the 1990’s. The country’s smaller rebel army, the National Liberation Army or ELN, founded at the same time as the FARC, currently has some 3,000 members and has not launched a formal peace process with the government. Colombia has fought the left-wing guerrillas and the so-called “war on drugs” with heavy militarization backed by the United States’ US$10 billion in military aid over 15 years of Plan Colombia. Presidents Barack Obama and Juan Manuel Santos announced a new Plan Colombia 2.0 earlier this year, called Paz Colombia, which is set to pour some US$450 million into Colombia for a total of up to US$4.5 billion over 10 years.
But as the government locks in military aid in the year Santos has heralded as the “year of peace” and the FARC prepares to disarm and start to participate in politics legally, what’s next for the FARC’s Dutch rebel fighter and top peace negotiator at this historic turning point for Colombia remains uncertain. “In a general way I can say that I will keep up the struggle for justice in Colombia and also in the world,” said Nariño. “What exactly I will do depends on what is needed.”
Colombian government and FARC-EP reach transcendental jurisdiction agreement in Havana
| September 24, 2015 | 8:40 pm | Announcements, Cuba, FARC, political struggle | No comments

GRANMA: Colombian government and FARC-EP reach transcendental jurisdiction agreement in Havana

 

The Colombian government and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) agreed here today to create a Special Jurisdiction for Peace and an Amnesty Law, which represent the greatest progress made thus far in the peace talks

 

Author: Granma

 

September 23, 2015 19:09:32

 

The Colombian government and rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) agreed in Havana today, September 23, to create a Special Jurisdiction for Peace and an Amnesty Law, which represent the greatest progress made thus far in the peace talks.

 

At the negotiations table in Havana, where Cuba and Norway serve as guarantors of the process, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, and FARC Comandante Timoleón Jiménez, leaders of the two sides, received the agreement document from the President of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, Raúl Castro Ruz.

 

President Santos spoke to those present thanking Raúl and the Cuban people, as well as the government of Norway, for their commitment to peace. He additionally thanked Venezuela and Chile for their contribution accompanying the dialogue.

 

March on Colorado supermax prison to “Free Simon Trinidad!”
| September 22, 2015 | 9:54 pm | FARC, political struggle, Simon Trinidad | No comments

March on Colorado supermax prison to “Free Simon Trinidad!”

By staff |

September 22, 2015
http://www.fightbacknews.org/2015/9/22/march-colorado-supermax-prison-free-simon-trinidad

Marching to Colorado supermax prison to 'Free Simon Trinidad'

Marching to Colorado supermax prison to ‘Free Simon Trinidad’ (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Florence, CO – In the mountains of Colorado, 35 spirited protesters marched down Highway 67 to the guardhouse of the U.S. federal supermax prison in Florence on Sept. 21. In the lead were two Colombian American women, with banners reading, “Free Simon Trinidad! Peace for Colombia!” and “Libertad para Simon Trinidad! Paz por Colombia!”

“I’m here to support the Colombian peace process. I’m here to protest the U.S. prison system that is holding Simon Trinidad, and to denounce his being tortured in solitary confinement,” said Lilli Ana Castrillon.

Currently there are peace negotiations taking place in Havana between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government. With the peace process moving forward, the FARC is asking for Simon Trinidad to be released to help finish the negotiations.

“We are here to inform President Obama that Simon Trinidad is the key to the peace process in Colombia. Simon Trinidad has been in solitary confinement for 11 years now here in the U.S. He is needed at the peace table to finish the negotiations,” said Mark Burton, the lawyer representing Trinidad in the U.S.

Upon arriving at the Florence supermax guardhouse, the protesters crossed the highway to face the prison. With prison guards watching through binoculars and armed men a few hundred yards further up the highway towards the five visible supermax prison towers, the activists held up hand made signs saying, “President Obama, release Simon Trinidad.”

RCN, the main television network of Colombia, reported and interviewed a few of the people. Protesters chanted loudly so prisoners could hear inside the maximum-security prisons, “Free, free Simon! Peace for Colombia!” and “Libertad, libertad para Simon Trinidad”

“We are here from nine cities to demand President Obama free political prisoner Simon Trinidad from this underground supermax dungeon. Nobody deserves the torture of solitary confinement. It is a violation of their human rights,” said Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera (Simon Trinidad) as he spoke to the crowd.

Burke continued, “The U.S. war in Colombia is a failure and we need to support the Colombian people as they seek peace. Let’s take this bold action outside the ‘Guantanamo of the Rockies’ back home and spread the word, ‘Free, free Simon! Peace for Colombia!’”

The protesters then marched back up the highway chanting, “Brick by brick, wall by wall, free Simon, free them all!” They also sang The Internationale before arriving back in the town of Florence.

Burke said, “This was a tremendous set of events for the anti-war and Colombia solidarity movements. We had a packed house last night in Denver, hosted by Al Frente de Lucha, then a spirited action today! Our next step will likely take us to the White House to demand freedom for Simon Trinidad.”

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), El Frente de Lucha of Denver, the Utah Anti-War Committee, Alliance for Global Justice from Tucson, and other groups built for the protest with the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera (Simon Trinidad).