Colombia False Positives


(Gloria Gaitán is the daughter of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán whose murder in 1948 signalled the beginning of 60 years of violent conflict and civilwar in Colombia. )

False positives is a local term from the aftermath of 9/11 applied to totally fabricated, supposedly "terrorist", events cooked up by the Alvaro Uribe government  to help the regime by throwing up a smoke screen during times of high scandal, as has happened repeatedly throughout this governement

This week with the serious para-politics scandal, the extradition of paramilitaries to keep them quiet and the accusations by ex-congresswoman Yedis Medina – who has shown that Alvaro Uribe’s second re-election is illegitimate since it took place via bribes and criminal conspiracy – false positives have been the order of the day monopolizing the national scene.

As the whole world must know, Colombia‘s Office of Public Prosecution – whose director was until recently a functionary of the President’s office – placed criminal charges against three national congress members, four foreigners and various Colombian nationals as presumed accomplices of the Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces (FARC). The accusations made public relate to contacts for arranging the humanitarian agreement with the guerrillas so as to win freedom for all the hostages.

For the Uribe government, this is a sin, because he does not want the hostages to be freed without crushing and defeating the guerrillas. The lives of those in the fighters’ hands and the atrocious torment suffered by their relatives is a matter of complete indifference to him. So for "reckless" people to be allowed to facilitate a humanitarian agreement is, by his lights, a criminal matter.

On Saturday, when this false positive had still not been let loose, put together supposedly from putative information gathered in the Herculean computers allegedly owned by Raul Reyes, Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos, made his yobbish announcement that Comandante Manuel Marulanda had died of a heart attack in March this year. This is the eleventh time the establishment has declared the founder and chief of the FARC to be dead. The President himself said the news came via the intelligence services from a source who, according to them, has never let them down.

So I don’t know for now whether the news is true or whether it is another false positive, but I can do no less than express a strange feeling that has taken hold of me. It is as though the possible disappearance of Manuel Marulanda will bury a part of my personal life because when one gets old one realises that death makes its way towards us little by little as people who shared different episodes in one’s own life disappear. Shared memories die with them.

This feeling of being part of something one remembers drew me close to Manuel. And it was like that, too, the few times I met him.

On one occasion, I went to the Casa Verde encampment when the main leader was still Jacobo Arenas.  Jacobo and myself talked for three days non-stop. Manuel hardly spoke at all, but with the little we did say it was impossible for me hold back my tears. We shared with great emotional force the event which led both him and me to begin our fight against the oligarchies caused by the persecution of which we were victims after 1948.

That was when the paramilitaries, created in 1946 by the Mariano Ospina Perez regime - in those days they were known colloquially as "pájaros" or "chuladitas" –  began to persecute the gaitanistas who had won the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1947. That’s why people have thought the persecution was aimed at Liberal supporters, when the real victims were the gaitanistas, as intimidation and punishment for having dared take control of the Liberal Party apparatus, finally reaching the doors of the Presidential palace and Jorge Eliécer Gaitán its slam dunk election candidate.

In my case, they murdered my father, with the complicity and participation of the CIA. In Manuel’s case they stole his and his family’s land. In an act of self-defence, they saved their lives by taking refuge in the mountains, fighting first with machetes and handguns, stubbornly defying poverty, until they managed to form a rebel army of more than 8000 men.

This is to talk not about my political path, but rather the common root of our struggles. Some time further on, we saw each other again when I was invited to give a seminar on gaitanismo to the commanders of various FARC fronts, a teaching assignment frustrated by the threat of a bombardment which forced us to break up.

On another occasion there, we again invoked the root of our struggle. We spoke also of our differences, which were many, but that common origin has always kept an imperceptible thread of communion between us (I still use the present tense).

I don’t know if this affirmation will lead the Public Prosecutor to accuse me of being a "terrorist" and accomplice of the FARC. I don’t care. New generations ought to know where the war was born and I think I can repeat today the title of one of my articles which, like all the others, has been little read and little distributed and which I called "The FARC, gaitanismo’s metastasis". Metastasis, with all the negativity and cruelty that implies. Not for nothing did my father think and say "If they kill me the country will go under." And it did go under. Marulanda, with his strategic gifts and I with my many limitations, are the result of this catastrophe that cuts Colombia‘s history in two and which, under the government of Uribe Velez, has led into Dante’s Inferno.

Translation copyleft Tortilla con Sal

Leave a comment