Monday, March 26, 2012

The Left Loses It: Marulanda in Caracas

'Marulanda Lives,' says the sign. (Photo:
Yesterday's homage in Caracas, Venezuela to FARC founder Manuel 'Sureshot' Marulanda provides yet another piece of evidence that the tunnel-visioned left is still there.

A man passes a mural of Marulanda
in Caracas. (Photo:
The comemoration of Marulanda's death in 2008 took place on a Caracas plaza named after the FARC founder. In idealizing Marulanda, the group grasps at the FARC's lofty rhetoric about social justice and revolution and ignores that the group has devolved into a drug trafficking organization which commits wholesale human rights violations, primarily against the poor people they claim to defend.

Interestingly, the commemoration coincides with the arrest the other day by Venezuelan police of another one of the FARC's founders, William Alberto Chitiva, in a safe house near Caracas. Chitiva was only a child when he joined Marulanda's rebel group. Back then, the guerrillas still seemed heroic and idealistic in their struggle for the rights of landless peasants. Today, while Colombia still has big problems, it has an open democracy in which leftists have gained power via the ballot box. Chitiva's arrest seems to indicate that the Venezuelan government has abandonded its past support for the FARC - whether out of a change of heart or pragmatism.

Armed struggle has become anarchistic, not to mention futile.

This cartoon in El Tiempo says that
Marulanda got his homage in hell.
Anybody uncertain of the FARC's moral bankruptcy just has to look at the long list of crimes the FARC committed under Marulanda, including massacres of Indians and forcing their children to become child soldiers and the 1999 kidnapping and murder of three Native American activists from the United States. Sure, the FARC apologized for this crime - which only underlines the fact that kidnapping and murder of innocents has become an integral part of the guerrillas' armed struggle.

Also, yesterday a bomb went off in an apartment in Suba, in northwest Bogotá, killing three university students and injuring others who were apparently assembling explosives. Police also reported finding pro-guerrilla material in the apartment. This follows two weeks of deadly attacks between the military and the FARC guerrillas, which left some 11 soldiers and close to 70 guerrillas dead.

The dead and injured students were likely idealistic youths who were taken in by the guerrillas' obsolete rhetoric - and who paid the ultimate price. Those soldiers were young men, most likely from poor families, who were fulfilling their mandatory military duty. I've met ex-guerrillas, and most did not join because they'd read Marx or dreamed of a proletariat revolution. Rather, they were poor youths for whom being a guerrilla was a job which kept them fed, gave them a gun and made them feel important. Some young girls join the guerrillas after falling in love with a guerrilla leader. Others join to avenge a relative's killing by the military or a paramilitary group. Yet others are recruited by the guerrillas against their families' will. Once in, they can only leave at the risk of their life.

In short, soldiers and guerrilla fighters have a lot in common - and yet, insanely, these young men are killing each other.

In contrast to the fate of the young people who die victims of the FARC's failed ideology, many FARC leaders have sent their own children to live overseas, often to Europe - where they live comfortably without fear of violent armed groups.

But Marulanda's fans in Caracas, who believe rhetoric rather than evidence, ignore all of this.

Update: El Tiempo reports that eight of the 36 FARC fighters killed the other day were minors, four of them boys and four girls.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

I totally agree with you.

Mauricio Forero.

Jimmy said...

Also, chill on the right wing nut-hugging.

Jimmy said...

I am waiting for the blog post where you trash the paramilitaries for massacring whole villages of people, forcing whole sections of the country to move away in fear, but I guess since its usually black people that the paramilitaries kill and intimidate its okay, right?

Also, don't forget to also trash Alvaro Uribe and his administration for paying the supplying the paramilitaries... and the corporations and rich land owners that paid the paramilitaries to massacre and intimidate innocent people because they wouldn't abandon their gold mines.

Its annoying that foreigners only focus on the FARC, never saying a word about the paramilitaries who do worse things than the FARC. Never mentioning the thousands of afro-colombians who have been murdered by the Black Eagles or forced to move away from Narino.

Cort Greene said...

The right wing government of Colombia in its critcism and the blogger forgot to mention the backing of the US military and government, that the conflict in modern times has existed since approximately 1964 between the Colombian government and peasant guerrillas and other left wing groups but is historically rooted in the conflict known as "La Violencia" that was triggered by the 1948 assassination of populist political leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan.

And over 200,000 people have been killed,

I may not agree with the stragery and tactic's of FARC/ELN but after state terrorism and mass murder with US support for so long, peaceful protest had not worked when different groups layed down their arms on many ocassions they must have saw no alterative...sadly

Miguel said...

Thanks for your comment Jimmy.

Yes, the paramilitaries have committed horrific crimes against peasants and others, often with collaboration from Colombia's official military - which is something I've included in this blog, and expect to revisit.

However, the paramilitaries have to some degree been disbanded, and many of their leaders are in U.S. prisons.

But one infuriating difference between the guerrillas and the paras - and the reason I wrote this post - is because some blindered leftists still celebrate the guerrillas. I haven't heard of anybody celebrating the paramilitaries lately.

I have also written several posts about the continuing scandals involving the Uribe administration.

And the paramilitaries have not terrorized only Afro-Colombians, but Colombians of all kinds.

Miguel said...

Thanks for your comment Cort.

Whether the FARC's origins are in La Violencia, which was a battle between the big political parties is debatable, altho some of the issues, such as land, are the same.

In fact, today there IS an alternative to violence, as I tried to point out. You just have to look at Bogotá's mayor, Gustavo Petro, an ex-M19 guerrilla, to see that.

Miguel said...

I also believe that the FARC share some moral responsibility for the paramilitaries' crimes.

After all, the paramilitaries only exist because the FARC do, and the paras were a very predictable result of the FARC's activities.

Which is not at all to justify the paramilitaries, of course.

Jimmy said...

The FARC has a lot of support in places like Narino and Choco. The FARC makes some farmers pay a tax on their coca, and if they don't pay, the FARC forces them to move. The AUC is hated by these people because they also make them pay a tax, which is much higher, and if the farmers don't pay... their families find them dead in a ditch. The FARC are supposedly fighting FOR these people, and whether that is true or not, the people believe it to be true. The AUC fights for multinational corporations, wealthy landowners, and the government. There is a reason the FARC has been able to hold on for so long... they do have support in the countryside. Living in Bogota, the perspective is different... and it looks like they have no support. The truth is that many people in the countryside view the FARC as their protectors. In many places, the FARC is the law and order, and the people trust them more than they trust the police.

Miguel said...

I'm sure that the FARC has some support, altho polls consistently say it's very low, and I've met few people who back the guerrillas - or are at least willing to say so.

Particularly, in areas where the government tries to erradicate drug crops and the guerrillas protect those crops, it's logical that the people would feel gratitude to the guerrillas.

However, I've also met many campesinos who feared the guerrillas. In the first house I lived in in Bogota the neighbors were a family of street merchants who had moved from the country to the city because they feared the guerrillas would take away their teenage kids to make them fighters.