Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jaime Pardo Leal: A Lesson for Today

A graffiti in Bogotá's Central Cemetery promises: 'Jaime Pardo, we promise victory.'

Today is the 25th anniversary of the assassination of leftist politician Jaime Pardo Leal. He's a little-remembered figure, except in leftist circles, but his killing and its consequences contain important lessons for Colombia's peace efforts today.

Jaime Pardo Leal's tomb in Bogotá's Central Cemetery.
His funeral and burial were carried out amidst
rioting and chaos. 
Pardo Leal was the presidential candidate for the far-left Union Patriotica (U.P.) political party, which many remember as the political arm of the FARC guerrillas. Pardo Leal's assassination, on a country road in Cundinamarca Oct. 11, 1987, was the most prominent of the killings of hundreds of Union Patriótica members by right-wing forces. It is widely believed that many of the killings, often termed a 'genocide,' were carried out by a collaboration between paramilitaries and Colombia's military.

Four men were convicted of gunning down Pardo Leal, but the masterminds behind it remain unidentified. Pardo Leal's relatives recently asked for the case to be reopened.

The killings destroyed the U.P. and ended the FARC's tentative move into politics. More than a decade passed before the government and FARC sat down to negotiate in the Caguan, which came to nothing. Today, with peace talks starting up again, the UP genocide and Pardo Leal's killing provide important lessons about both respect for human rights and the not to bring peace to Colombia.

'Our battle is not in vain' Juventud Communista. Graffiti on a tomb near the grave of Pardo Leal and other communist leaders.
Pardo Leal is remembered for several moving quotes, most of them about death:

"What is life worth when it seems like death? Life is to be lived, felt. That justifies our visit to this Earth.'

'Some of us are threatened with death for our loyalty from the time when we were young, to the fatherland, the people, the workers and the cause of socialism.'

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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