Saturday, October 3, 2015

Megateo's Lesson

Megateo and an EPL banner.
Megateo, the criminal gang leader reported killed yesterday, along with five bodyguards, by Colombian military, was no run-of-the-mill criminal.

Megateo, 39, whose real name is Víctor Ramón Navarro, is a holdout - or holdover - from a little-remembered guerrilla group called the EPL, or Popular Liberation Army, which officially demobilized in 1991.

The EPL, founded in 1967 by dissidents of the Colombian Communist Party, adopted an ideology inspired by Mao Tse Tung and later by the Stalinist Enver Hoxha, leader of Communist Albania. Such a closed and extremist ideology didn't seem very promising, and wasn't. The EPL never expanded much beyond its base in El Norte de Santander Department. In 1991, most of the EPL's members signed a peace accord with the government and transformed themselves into the Hope, Peace and Liberty political party, whose initials conveniently are EPL.

Following the demobilization, the EPL political party experienced a genocide which anticipated the
Megateo and troops.
better-remembered killing of the Union Patriotica political party members about the same time. But in contrast to the UP members, who were murdered by right-wing groups linked to the government, the EPL members were killed by EPL holdouts and members of the leftist ELN and FARC guerrilla groups, who considered them traitors.

That history has been conveniently forgotten by today's guerrillas, who often call themselves victims of right-wing and government violence.

In 1994, Megateo became the leader of the EPL holdouts, and transformed his band into pure criminals and narcotraffickers with ideological pretentions. A similar thing happened after the paramilitaries' own demobilization, when many incorporated into vicious, drug-trafficking criminal bands called Bacrim.

Megateo's story is a reminder that peace processes, like the one now underway with the FARC, often don't end the violence, especially when there's illegal drug money to be made.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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