|Townspeople search thru wreckage of a church destroyed when FARC pipe bombs landed on its roof in May 2002. About 100 civilians who had taken refuge inside the church were killed.|
Last week, when the FARC celebrated their own 50-year anniversary with a strange video statement by their leader Timochenko, the victims were absent. After changing clothes for the camera and sitting behind a spindly wooden table in the middle of some jungle, Timochenko celebrated the guerrillas' survival ' "thanks to the permanent support of the anonymous masses of campesinos."
|Damage from a FARC car bomb in Cauca Department.|
According to the latest Human Rights Watch report on Colombia,
"The FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) continue to commit serious abuses against civilians, including killings, threats, forced displacement, and recruiting and using child soldiers. In September 2013, the government’s human rights Ombudsman’s Office expressed alarm over the forced recruitment of children from indigenous Paeces communities in Cauca department, allegedly by the FARC.
The FARC leaders' minds seem to be frozen in a decades-old mindset about class conflict and proletarian revolution. In that mentality, the working classes are, by definition, their allies. In reality, the FARC are the humblest peoples' exploiters and persecutors.
The FARC love to aim accusations against the government and the right-wing paramilitaries who have often been the government's allies. While it may be true that the paramilitaries' atrocities are much worse than the guerrillas', that's no justification for anything. And, it seems to me, that the guerrillas carry a moral responsibility for the paramilitaries' crimes, which were a predictable and almost inevitable consequence of the guerrillas' actions.
With the guerrillas' admission that they are responsible for victimizing civilians, the FARC take a step away from Marxist ideology toward a more realistic view at Colombia's complex reality.
The guerrillas' admission comes at a key moment in the peace negotiations. They have advanced further than any previous such negotiations, but will probably collapse if right-wing presidential candidate Oscar Iván Zuluaga wins in next Sunday's election. In that sense, the guerrillas' admission seems the clearest evidence yet of their support for Pres. Santos' reelection.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours