Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Celebration for Carlos Pizarro

Party scene: Carlos Pizarro's tomb today. 
Bogotá's Central Cemetery came to life today - but in another era - as llanera music boomed from a corner, where suppporters of Carlos Pizarro celebrated (and that was what it was like) the 22nd anniversary of the M-19 presidential candidate's assassination.

Flowers and photos on Pizarro's tomb. 
Pizarro's assassination in 1990 by paramilitaries rocked the country, which had breathed a sigh of relief when the guerrilla group turned in its arms and converted itself into a political party. Would the M-19 now put their uniforms back on and return to the mountains? (Navarro Wolff, another M-19 veteran, recently revealed that Pizarro had made a secret pact with him to return to the armed struggle in case one of them were assassinated.) Only a few years before, the M-19 had attacked Colombia's Justice Palace on Plaza Bolivar, an episode which ended with nearly 100 dead and the building in flames. But the M-19 continued in the democratic system, several of their members becoming congressmen and governors. Today, ex-M-19 leader Gustavo Petro is mayor of Bogotá.
From Pizarro's tomb, Jose Mercado's
bust is just barely visible. 

A generation of young leftists seems to have idealized the M-19, who were young, colorful and media-friendly - but also committed acts, such as the Justice Palace attack, which look like terrorism today.

The bus on Jose Mercado's tomb looks toward Pizarro's
tomb, which is behind that of Santander. I've always suspected
that whoever buried Mercado did this deliberately. 
And what would Jose Mercado think about all of this? He was an Afro-Colombian union leader whom the M-19 kidnapped in 1976, accusing him of accepting 'imperialist' money and of 'betraying his people.' They held him captive for months, while calling for a 'popular trial' consisting of people writing on buildings' walls whether or not Mercado should be killed. Finally, on the anniversary of the M-19's founding, they murdered Mercado and threw his body onto the street.

The M-19 don't mention Mercado's murder in their tributes to themselves. But Mercado is buried not far away in the Central Cemetery, and his bust seems to look at Pizarro's tomb. What could Mercado be thinking about the celebration taking place there?


By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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