Friday, April 20, 2012

The M-19 Goes Full Circle

A once-unbelievable seen: The M-19 flag flies before the Justice Palace, which the M-19 guerrillas attacked, disastrously, in 1985.
The M-19's annual auto-hagiography on the Plaza Bolivar has new resonance this year, now that one-time M-19 leader Gustavo Petro is mayor of Bogotá.

The M-19 guerrillas were young, idealistic and media savvy. But they also committed horrendous crimes, including the kidnap-murder of Afro-Colombian union leader Jose Mercado and the 1985 attack on the Justice Palace, which ended with about 100 deaths and the building in flames. (Mayor Petro says he had no knowledge beforehand about the palace attack.)

The M-19, or 19 of April Movement, named themselves after the date of a 1970 presidential election allegedly stolen from dictator-turned-populist politician Gustavo Rojas Pinilla.

A man in a wheelchair reades an exhibit about the M-19. 

The M-19's flag flies before Bogotá's City Hall, now headed by ex-M-19 leader Gustavo Petro. 

Bricks on Plaza Bolivar represent victims of violence. Several military officials are now in prison for human rights violatoins committed during the retaking of the palace. 

A comedian attracts a crowd on Plaza Bolivar. He got lots more attention than did the M-19' exhibit. 

The M-19 demobilized after the disastrous Justice Palace attack and in 1991 participated in the writing of a new Colombian Constitution, which is still in force today. 

'Armed Propaganda.' The M-19 invaded small leftist newspapers, giving them a justification to publish pro-guerrilla propaganda. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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