Que haiga paz! History and Human Reconciliation in Colombia. Herbert Tico Braun University of Virginia. (Preliminary, incomplete draft)

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1 Que haiga paz! History and Human Reconciliation in Colombia Herbert Tico Braun University of Virginia (Preliminary, incomplete draft) Todos los colombianos, cada uno en su medio y en la medida de sus posibilidades, tenemos que meter el hombro por el país. A la gente hay que explicarle, o recordarle si sabía y se le olvidó, lo que significa en la vida tener país. Y tal vez la mejor manera es mostrar la penuria, la soledad, el desconcierto que se clava en lo más hondo del ser, cuando no se tiene patria, o cuando teniéndola, no se disfruta porque los peligros fuerzan su ausencia. Ivan Marulanda, El que quiere país, que ayude hacerlo, El Espectador, February 16, 2001 (emphasis added)!que haiga paz! exclaimed Manuel Marulanda Vélez, Tirofijo, in grammatically incorrect, lower class, folk Spanish as the La Uribe peace negotiations were getting underway in Alfredo Molano recalls that Las puertas de Casa Verde [the FARC guerrilla headquarters, since destroyed by the Army] se abrieron, y el país supo quiénes eran los comandantes de las Farc. Oyeron hablar a Marulanda a Jacobo, oyeron hablar a Cano y a Rául Reyes. Más de uno se sorprendió de que hablaran castellano y muchos mostraron como evidencia del grado de atraso de las guerrillas la frase de Tirofijo, Que haiga paz! 1 Tirofijo, struggling for some thirty-five years, was little known. He was out in the countryside. More than anything else about him, it was his death that had been rumored time and again. When President Andrés Pastrana went out into the countryside for his third, historic visit with Tirofijo on February 8 and 9, 2001, urban columnist María Isabel Rueda, writing in Semana, seems to discover the guerrilla leader once again. She sees in him for the first time a rural nature, an astucia natural de este campesino malicioso y desconfiado. She understands that many in Colombia look down at him. Ni el hecho de que sea un auténtico campesino por lo cual unos simplisticamente lo daban por ignorante y otros por ingenuo ni el hecho de ya llevar varios años a las espaldas, han evitado que Manuel Marulanda sea lo que es: el que manda in the guerrilla movement. 2 The past in Colombia is a whispered country. The past is rural. It is known to be primitive. Colombians react with understandable fear and disgust when reminded of the violences that wracked the countryside in the 1950s and beyond, In the 1960s the cultured elites and most of those, both rich and poor, who lived in urban centers, were able to turn away from the past as the carefully constructed,

2 conciliatory, and rational rules of the Frente Nacional seemed so clearly to provide a divide from the strangely passionate and irrational behavior of cruel peasants who hacked one another up, sliced fetuses from the bellies of dying women, yanked the tongues out of the mouths of men who would in any case no longer speak, and smirked at children who looked in bewilderment at their fathers mutilated bodies lying before them on the ground. While all this behavior was quite spectacular and sensationalist at the time, there were clearly no positive lessons to be drawn from it. 3 These pathologies were practiced by other people, better forgotten, left behind, whispered about. French sociologist Daniel Pécaut has understood that La paz del Frente Nacional implicaba el silencio sobre lo acontecido, e impedía, otra vez, la construcción de un relato colectivo que permitiera la elaboración simbólica de la experiencia de las víctimas. 4 All along, these behaviors were paradoxically also understood in these cultured and urban circles as somehow predictable, for they were the expression of a dark underside of the Colombian nation that made itself felt in the intrinsically narrow and enclosed lives of provincial, ignorant, and superstitious rural folk. They were whispered about, often quite loudly. Much of this elite understanding of rural lower class behavior derives from a deep cosmopolitan, urban suspicion of, and disdain for, the countryside and its inhabitants. As the vast majority of Colombians have moved on, often boisterously, into an uncertain modern future and have managed to disconnect themselves from these traditional pasts, scholars have been since the 1960s studying this historical period, which has come to be known as La Violencia. While the literature is rich and varied, it has on the whole been broadly conceived in macro terms through materialistic and structuralist approaches. Most of the scholarship begins with the assumption that there is a profound opposition between the rural insurgency and the civilian institutions and politicians, and that the rebels have risen up in resistance and rebellion against the social order. Rural poverty, class conflict, labor exploitation, and political exclusion have been understood to be the driving forces behind the conflicts. 5 Only deep structural changes could possibly bring them to an end. Historians and social scientists have generally concluded, to their dismay, that the violences in the countryside in Colombia have not turned out as they should, or as they would have wanted them to, and that the nation s history is thus composed of a series of frustrations, detours, and inconclusive processes. 2

3 The actions of rural folk against the social order have been understood as not sufficiently collective, as too localistic, often more private than public, not fully class conscious, not truly revolutionary, and often more emotional than rational. 6 The rural rebellions have thus not contributed to the needed structural change. Today the nation is generally understood to be incomplete, its building process inconclusive. As in the popular imagination, the past has been left behind in this scholarly literature. Here too, there are few if any lessons for the future of the nation that can be drawn from the past. The prevailing view among scholars and politicians who have sought to negotiate an end to the conflict and who have been engaged in the peace process since at least 1983 has been summed up recently by a prominent political scientist in the first words in the first essay of a book titled Reconocer la Guerra para Construir la Paz: Este ensayo no pretende hacer un recuento de la mitología que se ha ido tejiendo en torno al origen de la guerrilla en Colombia, un país que ya tiene suficiente violencia con sus grandes mitos fundacionales: guerras de independencia, la de los Mil Días, la violencia de los años cincuenta. 7 Little if anything, then, is to be gained by looking back at a history that is little other than violent. The past is myth. Memory can serve no useful purpose. The nation appears to be stuck. The conflict between the State and the rural guerrillas has grown to gigantic proportions in the collective imagination, and also in daily practice. The divide is now seen to be etched in stone. Today it is believed that the nation is at war. Since the early nineties guerra is the term most commonly used to describe the conflict. Some even believe that there is a civil war. Others claim that the conflict has degenerated into a war against society, although it is not clear what that might mean. Now, without a past that informs the present, the conflict is concieved of as having been historically inevitable. This may help explain the recent utopian dimension of the negotiations between the State and the guerrillas, in which agrarian, urban, fiscal, judicial, and political reforms are all on the table, even though it is difficult to believe that these sorts of deep structural changes are actually going to be negotiated in conversations with leaders of rural guerrilla movements, or that they would be put in practice should such agreements in principle actually be reached. 8 While the materialistic and structural scholarship has added immensely to our store of knowledge about the different forms and expressions which the rural violences took on over the years, it has done little to help us come to an understanding of cultural relationships across time between the urban political 3

4 and intellectual elites and their rural clienteles. In the 1950s, while the State in most other Latin American countries was seeking in various ways to integrate the countyside more thoroughly into the fabric of the nation, in Colombia the political elites, and especially the Liberal leaders, found that they were trying to disentangle themselves from the widespread, often intimate, personal connections that tied those followers emotionally, even passionately to them. Theirs is a human, a personal history, more so than it is an institutional or even an ideological 9 one. It is part of and emerges from a broad political culture which Malcolm Deas as describes as being unusually communicative, fluid, unmanichean. These personal histories have resulted, he states, in a historiography [that] is rich in memoir, anecdote, incident, sketch; it is intimate,conversational, personal, even in its recent revolutionary versions. Guerrilleros and urban politicians have lived a long, half-century filled with intimacies and distances, expectations and fears, understandings and misunderstandings. It is a discursive universe made possible by travels back and forth, with guerrillas coming to the city and civilian leaders going out into the countryside, with negotiations, discursos, declaraciones, proclamas, peticiones, llamados, cartas, correos, comitivas, comisiones, delegaciones, reuniones, entrevistas,and conversaciones. Guerrillas and civilians have been engaged in a long ritual of intensely verbal, literate, and intelectualized peaceful exchanges that are deeply meaningful and highly valued by all sides, but perhaps especially so, at least until recently, by those from below, those who have understood themselves, often proudly, to be los de abajo. Indeed, when seen from countryside, these exchanges are absolutely vital. And from the very start, it seemed that one of the guerrilla leaders was particularly focused on these exchanges. Isauro Yosa recalls that Tirofijo ni le gustaba el trago ni le gustaba la pelea. Él soñaba con negociar. (Molano, 53) The urban politicians and the rural guerrillas conformed a highly gendered, convivial and tensionfilled existence in which men encounter one another as males. Encounters begin and end, whenever the hierarchical distance between these men is not too large, or whenever the distrust is not overwhelming, with abrazos. At times, formal saludos would have to do, a ceremonious, collective shaking of hands in some careful order, from the most important men of each side, to the least. While these encounters are ritualized and culturally scripted, they are far from formulaic, and can often be quite awkward. Last March when a group of the most important capitalists in the land went out to meet with the guerrilleros, they did 4

5 not quite know how to greet one another. Saludaron al máximo comandante guerrillero con un brazo por encima del hombro, como se saludan los hombres a quienes les parece insuficiente darse la mano pero darse un abrazo les parece demasiado. 10 Cigarrettes are passed around. The men drink, and it appears that it is usually whisky and brandy that is shared, both of which are foreign and elite drinks rather than local beer, rum, or aguardiente. Theirs, finally, and most significantly, is a world defined by honor, and when seen in its long historical trajectory in Colombia during this half-century, especially by its loss, by humiliation. The humiliation of human beings is, of course, a universal phenomenon. But we might venture that it has a particularly conspicuous place in the history of Colombia. Pécaut seemd to have found it so when he first came to Colombia in the early 1960s. Percibí que a lo largo de la historia [de Colombia]se había creado un sentimiento de humillación de las clases subalternas, muy diferente del sentimiento pur de la pobreza. La humillación es el revés de lo que las élites llamaban las clases humildes. Tal sentimiento tenía que ver con el hecho de que realmente nunca se habían consagrado derechos civiles y sociales. No era sólo una cuestión de derechos concretos, sino de la carencia de una simbología nacional capaz de hacer que todos se sintieran miembros de una misma comunidad política. This humiliation, in his view, made for a prevalence of vínculos de dependencia social, of local, clientelistic and arbitrary networks that worked against a more collective, a more democratic and igalitarian social order. Humiliation, in other words, either depeleted nationhood, or was an expression of its sparse existence. 11 But the widespread sense of humiliation that apparently makes itself keenly felt across time in the lives of many Colombians is less a sign of a lack of nationhood as it is an expression, a painful one of course, of the very vitality of nationalistic bonds in Colombia. For human beings feel humiliated by others when they have deep emotional connections to them, when the relationships that they have established are meaningful and people have invested themselves in them, when these relationship embody expectations of reciprocity. In Colombia, individual and collecitve humiliation derives less from the fact that civil and social rights are lacking (which of course, they are) or due to a dearth of broad national symbols, than from the belief and the expectation of those from below, los de abajo, precisely those who become humiliated, that they are indeed tied to others who are above them in the social order, that they share with them thoughts, ideas, ideals, heroes, and a belief in a better society. Together they can shout Viva el Partido 5

6 Liberal!, and Viva el Partido Conservador! and Abajo el Partido Liberal!, and Viva Colombia!, and sense that somehow they are expressing the same thoughts and feelings the same emotions. Individuals and goups can be humiliated when the feel that have the right to make claims, to clamar and to reclamar, to use the felicitous phrases that Michael Jiménez employs as the underpinning of the social bargaining which he sees as being at the heart of social relations in the Colombian countryside in the first half of the twentieth century. 12 This humiliation appears to be deepest when those claims are rejected from above, when the connections are broken. For as we know, the political parties in both their narrow clientelistic networks and in their broad ideological messages, have made deep connectons throughout the Colombian countryside since shortly after independence almost two centuries ago. 13 These connections intensified dramatically in the 1940s, as Jorge Eliécer Gaitán mobilized thousands upon thousands of Colombians in towns and villages throughout the nation, promising them a new and more intimate integration into the life of the nation. 14 That promise too, of course, was broken by the actions of a lone assassin one rainy Friday afternoon in the city. Much of the vitality of the Colombian nation, although by no means all of it, comes from below. ********* Alfonso López Pumarejo, at the time president of the Dirección Liberal Nacional went hesitantly into the countryside in 1952, to the Llanos to visit with the emerging Liberal guerrillas. He was sixty-six years old. At first he said he was coming, then he demurred. The guerrillas wondered whether they were going to be left con los crespos hechos. What would happen with their bandera izada, nuestras chicas de gala, el pan y las conservas, las botellas de wishky (sic), los cigarrillos, y todas esas cosas que se adquieren de contribución? O qué gran chasco y tanta pérdida de energía, por muchas leguas a la redonda, si el jefe no viniera! He finally did show up, but only once he had secured a group of military men to back him up. His arrival created gran expectativa y alboroto, on the part of the men in arms and among the surrounding rural population. Once he had gotten off his horse, the former president of the republic was rodeado de un pueblo atento a todos sus gestos y palabras, writes Eduardo Franco Isaza in his remarkable testimony of that period, Las guerrillas del Llano. 15 The guerrillas made formal, elaborate plans to receive López. El doctor Guillermo Ramírez, encabezando una comisión de notables, a nombre de nuestro comando recibiría al doctor López y su 6

7 comitiva, luego le presentaría una nota de saludo y la invitación muy cortés para seguir a Alcalá sobre el lomo de los mejores caballos chusmeros. Al mismo tiempo, cinco guerrilleros, tocados de botas y cascos, con todas sus armas encima, harían honores y escoltarían al viejo Alfonso Once the old man was standing before him, the guerrilla writer describes him in detail. Es de elevada estatura, un poco cargado de espaldas; muy elegante, y de gesto mundano; cara rosada con vívisimos ojos azules, que escrutan tras de los anteojos de nácar. Lo cubre un sombrero marrón que deja entrever la cabeza blanca de canas, pero los ademanes demuestran mucha energia. And then, when López asked whether the military officers who accompanied him to the military base could join them at the camp, the response of the guerrillas was unequivocal. Doctor, usted es el jefe de este comando. No tiene más que ordenar. The protagonists engaged in various rounds of conversations over a period of two days. Many of the guerrillas had their chance to intervene, and jokes were made by all as a sense of confidence and conviviality developed. They drank. Franco Isaza asks a coronel, Señor, se clava un whisky? Caballero, me clavo el whisky, the coronel responded.!por Colombia! Salud caballeros! López remained cautious. El doctor López acaricia su vaso, sin casi haberlo probado. Nevertheless, hay alegría, los cuchillos cortan el asado, pasan bandejas con otras viandas. Los tiples y las maracas echan al viento el joropo. Los fusiles pasan de guerrillero en guerrillero. They talked and talked. Little of substance was discussed, but that did not much matter. Se hacen grupos y se habla de muchas cosas al mismo tiempo, sin que falte la manía colombiana de hacer discursos. No hay vivas ni abajos. Es una fiesta fraternal. The guerrilleros understood that López s very presence legitimated them as carriers of a broad tradition of liberalism and connected them to the party, the city, other guerrilla groups, and to the nation. Así corrieron las horas, sin nada concreto; quizás al doctor López le fuera suficiente conquistar la confianza de los guerrilleros, cosa que consiguió, desde luego, ya que hasta el momento nada iba en contra del movimiento rebelde. Al contrario, estábamos adquiriendo postín...muchos pensarán que se estan discutiendo cosas importantes, pero las cosas importantes no se han abocado. Vamos en sondeos y sin que se haya hablado mucho, ya hay un hecho: que los bandoleros no son bandoleros, son revolucionarios. Eso lo está cantando la presencia del doctor López en los Llanos, justamente en un 7

8 cuartel guerrillero. Mañana y pasado la prensa lo publicará en documentos gráficos. In addition, not knowing quite how López was going to react, the guerrillas demand the impuesto guerrillero of fifteen thousand pesos from Fernando Reyes, a rich local landowner, in the jefe s presence. It must have been a difficult moment for the former president, but he came through. Fernando, son quince Franco was ecstatic. Y en esas tres sencillas palabras, el impuesto ganadero guerrillero quedó amparado por la Dirección Nacional Liberal sin que los comandos guerrilleros dependieran de tal entidad. The guerrillas needed the endorsement of the politicians. The respect and the admiration that these guerrillas felt for their leader shines through in these pages. They had come from cities, from towns, and from the countryside to congregate in the Llanos in order to fight the Conservative government, and to defend themselves from the onslought of the regime s formal and informal police forces, the much feared chulavitas. Franco Isaza s testimony from beginning to end is a plea for leadership from the city, for orientación.. Tirofijo tells Yosa and other hay que mandar un propio a Bogotá a ver qué orientaciones hay. (Molano 44-5). The liberal guerrillas accepted unquestioningly the leadership of the liberal elites. They self-evidently understood the superiority of their chiefs, the jefes. The guerrillas, from the Llanos and elsewhere, followed events taking place in the city with abiding interest. They read the newspapers with regularity, they wrote to the politicians, traveled to departmental capitals and to nation s capital city continuously. No acabábamos de salir recalls Isauro Yosa, cuando comenzaron a gritarnos: que vengan, que vengan. Había llegado un correo de Bogotá. (Molano, 46) Mail from the city was like a life-line They knew many of the national leaders personally. The guerrillas talked about national politics all the time. Rumors flew. They were constantly awaiting the next coup d etat against the Conservative government. When Minuto, one of the Llanos guerrillas traveled to Bogotá to inform the Liberal leaders about events there, el doctor Lleras Restrepo, en mi libreta, apuntó, con su puño y letra los nombres de los traidores del golpe. His trip was worth something tanglible as well although far from what he had hoped. Recibí tres docenas de camisas, tres docenas de alpargatas, mil tiros calibre 22 y 150 cartuchos de revólver. And he was given instructions by Lleras Retrepo to stay a few more days in the city, because another golpe was being planned. They protected the jefes. Hernán dormía en casa del doctor Echandía, pues se decía que a éste lo iban a matar, y había que cuidar al viejo. De pronto mataron al hermano del 8

9 doctor Echandía, de u n tiro que era para el viejo Darío [Echandía]. Eso fue frente a Bavaria. Ese día, si don Echandía no se avispa y se aarrastra de tripa, tiemplan al viejo! (p. 63-4) In the mid 1940 Isauro Yosa, also known as Mister Lister, and one of the first liberal guerrillas to later join the communists, or the comunes as they were called, recalled his encounter in the city with the civilian leaders, also with López. Los colonos me nombraron en una comisión para ir a conversar con el presidente López, pero el no nos quiso recibir. En cambio, Lleras Camargo fue muy atento con nosotros. Nos prometió su intervención personal. Recuerdo todavía los términos. Nos devolvimos muy contentos por haberle dado la mano a un doctor tan alto y encopetado. 16 Here other statements of admiration But the guerrillas in the Llanos after that meeting did not simply hand themselves over to Alfonso López. Throughout the visit, López must clearly have understood that he was being successfully pressured from below, that the guerrillas were turning him into their spokesperson. Both sides knew they were different from one another. When López was invited to stay overnight at the guerrilla camp, he informed the guerrillas that he could not do so for fear of what the Conservative government might make of his close ties to the guerrillas. When the president asks Franco to join him overnight at the air base instead, the guerrilla writer says, Doctor, yo no puedo abandonar nuestro comando, ni tratar nada fuera de él. And López forthrightly stated his differences with the guerrillas. He told them that he had come at the behest of President Urdaneta, and not the Dirección Liberal Nacional, and that he had come to arreglar la cosa. The guerrillas heard him to say in no uncertain terms that the position of Liberals in the city estaba ceñida a una política de paz, completamente ajena a nuestra rebelión, aunque no desinteresada de nuestro destino, por cuanto encarnaba la acción colectiva del partido frente a la violencia oficial. Pero, que desgraciadamente no podíamos tener un buen desenlace, ya que no poseíamos una fuerza suficiente, capaz de echar abajo al bárbaro sistema imperante, para mucha desgracia de nuestro pueblo. He made it clear that guns and ammunition would not be forthcoming from the city. The guerrillas, in any case, knew not to trust López and the other jefes. They had been trying for months to get the Liberals to back their struggle, largely without much success. They sensed that the civilians were not behind them. When López asked them how many guns they had, they laughed, for this 9

10 was a secret no one was to know, not even he. They tried to rely on themselves. Se habló otro poco y concluímos que no debíamos harcernos ilusiones con armamentos y promesas llovidas del cielo. Nuestra actitud debería ceñirse a nuestros propios recursos. (63) At the very beginning of his visit, López recounted an old anecdote from his youth. He had been strangely ill for months, had visited doctors in London, had been put under all kinds of treatments and medications, all to no avail. He went to New York, where he found el mejor médico, un yanqui muy inteligente, who told him to just forget about all the treatments. No se haga nada, despreocúpese, the doctor told him, and young López quickly left his illness behind. Vea Franco, el remedio tan sencillo, López concluded. Franco s immediate thoughts on hearing López story, are telling. Medité un instante, quizás el viejo zorro nos quería dar el remedio infalible para ese terrible mal que era la rebelión: el olvido. Franco was expressing the guerrillas s most abiding fear, that they be forgotten, left alone in the countryside, unconnected to the party and its leaders and all that they meant. López s visit was a victory for los de abajo because it meant that they were not bandoleros, bandits. This was a matter of deep personal pride for all of them. They could be referred to as revolucionarios, and not esa otra palabra que tanto hiere el espíritu, que tanto martilla en los diarios, que desmoraliza al pobre pueblo humillado y que hace más daño que una bayoneta clavada: bandoleros. These words may have a melodramatic and propagandistic ring to them as they are read and understood today outside of the immediate context of the rural combatant s lives. But they are deeply revealing. For many of these guerrilleros the difference between being a bandit and a revolutionary was a matter of honor. If they were bandits, they acted for themselves, selfishly, for loot. As revolutionaries, they were at the service of the Liberal Party, of liberty, their highest ideological aspiration, and the nation. They could understand themselves as part of the large historical project of Colombian and world liberalism, however vaguely they might understand that ideology. As revolutionaries they acted in a disinterested manner. They were more than themselves, more than each of them to themselves. Even more existentially, perhaps, as bandits they could only be but local actors. For if they were bandits, the liberal leaders could clearly not endorse them, support them, be with them. As bandits they were disconnected from the nation. As revolutionaries, they could be the very nation. As revolutionaries, they were Colombians, patriots. As 10

11 bandits they they they were forgotten, isolated, living in silence. The rural combatants could not do without their urban leaders. Without them they could have no honor. Without them, they were alone. The rural guerrillas feared nothing more. Franco Isaza s testimony is filled with this abiding fear. Llegaría el Batallón Vargas y entonces todos nosotros en la paz del hato, la fundación o el rancho del conuco, seríamos allanados, aprehendidos, fusilados o hechos prisioneros como unos delincuentes comunes. Quién haría nuestra defensa? Quien iría con autoridad a decir que no éramos unos bandoleros, sino hombres, hijos de la Patria, lanzados a la rebelión por la violencia oficial? They lived in anguish. One thing was to be attacked. Quite another was to left behind. As the Liberal leaders removed themselves more and more, Franco writes that nuestro partido había enmudecido, and he refers to their mutismo desastroso, of directivas liberales ensordecidas, and of el pueblo solo, la soledad infinita and el silencio pegajoso. Being alone, roaming the countryside and protecting themselves from the well-armed and organized chulavitas who were out to kill them was terrible fate. Habíamos escapado como ratas, nos sentíamos débiles criaturas sobre cuyas conciencias gravitaba la sensación del vacío y la miseria. Aquellos eran los fuertes, los poderosos, a quienes todo correspondía por derecho de conquista, hasta nuestros sentimientos. Por eso se llevaron a la mujer. Tenía que ser así. Quizás ella estaría conforme, el ancestro de hembra arrebatada por la fuerza como presa codiciada le estaría cantando en las venas. Los fierros relucientes de los triunfadores la seducirían, como siempre fué desde el principio de los tiempos. Sentía el desespero de la humillación y los celos. Yo, el rebelde fugitivo, no tenía derecho a la compañia y amor de las mujeres. Ninguno de los nuestros podía mirar tan alto. Nuestra compañera no podía ser más que la soledad en la espesura. La tibieza de unos labios, la tersura de una piel, las lágrimas y el orgullo de una mujer, bálsamo que cura todas las heridas, no son consuelo de los débiles, sino adorno de los vencedores. Se deslizaba lentamente el tiempo y un silencio embrarazoso nos hacía enmudecer. Nadie hablaba, las miradas cruzábanse fugitivas disimulando algo. (p. 163) Franco sensed that what they were fighting for was something that they previously had, but now was lost. Avíspate viejo Emiliano. Las cosas no siempre se dan silvestres y a los jóvenes de hoy nos toca luchar por algo que se ha perdido y que todos no ven a tiempo, sino cuando se hallan despojados, humillados, sus casas violadas y la familia de luto. (77) 11

12 Here transition to Tirofijo Qué planes tienen? Que dicen los Lleras, los López? Nada, silenciados Que dice la dirección liberal departamental? Poca noticias. Nada en absoluto, dejaron de abrir la boca, la sellaron de pensamientos, por lo tanto dejaron de pensar por miedo físico. O por lo menos ya no actúan. Nosotros no sabemos nada en absoluto, esta gente está perdida en la bruma de la legalidad de las ciudades [E]sta situación está muy complicada, parece que todo cambió de carácter, entonces hay que buscar una solución. Ya no se decía, pero con quién la buscamos? A quién recurrimos? Las armas, dónde estan las armas, cómo se consiguen? Si nos quedamos así de tranquilos, nos van a matar a todos. El cuerpo ya no resiste más humillación. 17 The fear of being alone, of solitude, of soledad appears to be a central, driving force in Colombian history. It is a major themes in Colombian letters. According to Gene Bell-Villada, Gabriel García Márquez is among the most powerful writers of human solititude and isolation, of abandonment and loss, o f the lonely battle for survival, of desolation and even alienation. Few solitudes in fiction can compare with that of the illegitimate Aureliano Babilonia, friendless and bereaved, with total kowlwedge being scant consolation as Macondo rushes to its end. 18 The solitude not only of Colombia but of Latin America was also the theme with which García Márquez s accepted the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. He laments the great distance of Latin America from the rest of the world, its cultural remoteness, and especially its misaprehension by the major powers. 19 The classic novel of the period, El cristo de espaldas, by Eduardo Caballero Calderón evokes life in a tiny village far from everywhere, where rank and file members of the two political parties conspire against one another for their own economic and political gain by enveloping their private desires in the cloak of public purposes. Life out there in that pueblo triste is one desolación. It is remoto and anónimo. The novel revolves around a young priest who wishes to go out there and minister to good people far from the cities. The bishop warns him. En ese pueblo, si bien es cierto puedes encontrar el paraíso espiritual en el silencio, la soledad, la ausensia de mundo, la simplicidad de las costumbres y la sensillez aldeana, también puedes caer de bruces, sin saber a qué horas, en el infiernillo de la pequeñeces. (19) The priest finds the silence,and can t deal with it. Era un paisaje muerto Es la muerte, y detrás de esta muerta de las cosas no está sino el silencio. En esta cuenca vacía de la tierra no queda ni el recuerdo de la luz que se 12

13 iriza y se refleja en la pupila de un lago o en la retina de una fuente. Este silencio plano y sin profundidad me aterra, com si aquí la tierra estuviera muriendo continuamente y su cadaver se disolviera en una niebla densa y pegajosa. Dios mio, Dios mio! Por qué esta soledad, y esta desolación, y esta muerte? (141) The frontier in Colombia appears to play a much different, even opposing role to what it has played in the history of the United States. Here my contrast, briefly taken from previous essay. Alberto Lleras Camargo, in his elegant autobiography, Memorias notes the place of solitude in both the countryside and the city. La guerra resultaba un ejercicio alegre que, con sus tiros y sus gritos,sus asaltos y atropellos a la propiedad y a la mujer del prójimo, rompía la sórdida rutina del trabajo Porque al campesino aislado en su rancho, más que al habitante de la aldea, se lo devoraban la soledad, el silencio, la oscuridad nocturna, el impenetrable rostro de la mujer, el ladrido de los perros, el llanto de las criaturas.la guerra era el correo popular, y a veces el único. tedio, al frío, a la desolación Luego, todos salíamos por la Avenida de la República, morosamente, a mirar mujeres, a saludar a otros amigos, a tomar el sol tibio de los veranos, a sentirnos, siempre, en otra parte, menos en esa aldea monótona, poblada de seres grises, vestidos de negro Todos nuestros contemporáneos ---y no teníamos más que los intelectuales, porque todos los demás seres nos tenían sin cuidado--- iban encontrando, uno a uno, por la vía oficial o por la aventura privada el modo de escaparse al ancho mudo Y los demás sentíamos, cada vez que alguien se iba, que eramos náufragos en nuestra isla meditarránea, entre las nubes heladas, tan cerca de los 3,000 metros, separados del mar y la civilización por espacios sin término. The guerrilleros strove mightily against this solitude. Their many efforts at being collectives, of entidades, the word that comes up again and again, of being disciplined, cohesive, organized, had much to do with politics. Una entidad que pudiera recoger las guerrillas y organizarlas hacía el trabajo unidas en íntimo asocio y contacto con el gobierno, pero responsables ante nuestro pueblo. Una entidad que quedara como fruto de tanto sacrificio y que en todo momento representara a nuestra gente. Una entidad, en fin, que hiciera la gran unidad llanera y se extendiera a todo el liberalismo y al pueblo en general, saldando las distancias creadas por los malditos chulavitas entre guerrilleros y contraguerrilleros. Una fuerza organizada de trabajo capaz de hacer cumplir del gobierno y de quien sea, lo convenido. (324) It 13

14 was also an effort to keep from becoming bandoleros. They were always recounting their exloits. Franco tells of one guerrillero who exclaims!a discreción todo el mundo! ---grito--- Yo soy el General Eliseo Velásquez López, quien viene a abrirse el corazón en esta tierra por defender al pueblo. Yo soy aquel And then Franco states, Siguió un largo discurso (101) And the were always talking, conversando. Y se entabló así una conversación animada a lo llanero, con tópicos de caballería y vaquería, comentarios alusivos a la rebelion y conjeturas sobre las próximas aventuras (51) And they were always making sure that they remembered who they were, and what they had done. They called it hacer historia. Después de hacer historia y exámen de la situación a través de toda la lucha, entramos en materia, exponiendo un programa (324) Here examples from Tirofijo. As it dawned on the guerrilleros that they were indeed going to be left out in the cold, that their struggle to be organized and disciplined, that their effort to carry the banners of their party, their desire to overthrow the Conservative government, that is, to make what they understood as la revolución, would all come to nothing, they felt betrayed by their leaders, traicionados. Many of them reacted with a visceral disgust for the notables. Franco Isaza s text is dripping with sarcasm. Ni autorizamos ni desautorizamos ---dijo el doctor Lleras Restrepo---digales a esos muchachos que estamos de corazón con ellos. (153) One liberal leader was described as un flamante jefe liberal de los de arriba. (227) --- Que grandes jefes tenemos! dijo con rabio Tulio Esos viejos locos lo hacen matar a uno sin saber a qué horas,concluyó con sorna Minuto. (63-4) Mientras que Darío Echandía recomendaba parsimonía al pueblo liberal, they were out there in the countryside without any guns with which to even defend themselves. Al mismo tiempo las directivas, los intelectuales y clases privilegiadas del liberalismo huían a sus torres de marfil y hacían el pequeño esfuerzo de callar, olvidando desde la palabra hablada en las tertulias hasta la expresión escrita por la prensa (64) Tirofijo thought the dilemma through in perhaps the simplest manner. Marulanda ya había comensado a ver que lo que decían los doctores de la dirección liberal era una mierda. (Molano, 66) The guerrilleros turned on that world of the jefes. Planean y hablan de revolución, conspiraciones, sistemas, y panaceas para resolver los problemas inmediatos. Teorías brillantes, características de toda junta de notables Qué les importa a los guerrilleros cuanto digan o hagan los 14

15 notables? La cuestion es a tiros. El ideal: tomar fusiles. Los discursos están totalmente desprestigiados. Los hombres de la rebelión no conocen de sutilezas, ni de paños de agua tibia Las nobles teorías y los altos ideales de todos los notables del mundo, frente a una ola de barbarie, tendrían que afincarse sobre las culatas de los fusiles o perecer. En aquellos días el pueblo no podía seguir sino a quienes le aseguraban pan y vida. (66-7) While praising the attitude of some of the leaders, others, Muchos, los más desvalorizados, disminuídos en sus legítimas proporciones, sin accioned en pro ni en contra de la tiranía. Los menos arrastrando su indignidad y su traición a los pies del tirano, revestidos en ocasiones de falso ropajes de patriotas conciliadores, pero en realidad prostituídos, degradados hasta en su condición de hombres. (306). The guerrillas rejected the civilian leaders because they were men who did not really act like men. They were pusilanimous, cautious, frightened, and parsimonious men, men who where chicken, who did not stand up for what they thought and believed, who did not make their presence felt. Mientras tanto, allá lejos, en Londres un jerarca del partido liberal, Alfonso López, se ocupaba de una novia y una luna de miel, sin preocuparle poco o mucho la angustiosa situación en Colombia y sin mostrarse siquiera indignado por el monstroso atentado de que fue victima, el que dejó como saldo una casa destrozada y sus archivos e invaluables recuerdos familiares destruídos. (305) The guerrillas find it hard to understand that López would not even seek to defend his own home in the city, when it was burned by a Conservative mob. Eduardo Santos, desde su tranquila residencia en Paris. Carlos Lleras Restrepo, añorando en México. Darío Echandía, en su casa de la 39, fatigado y satisfecho.alberto Lleras Camargo al margen de los hechos, amparando su silencio con la investidura de funcionario internacional que le daba el cargo de Secretario de la OEA. (306) Worse still, Minuto tells that when he urged Echandía to defend the death of his brother, el viejo se calló, explicando que él no guardaba rencor a nadie. (63) *********** While the guerrilleros clearly understood that they were being betrayed, the jefes in the city saw matters far differently. They were not about to lead their rural clienteles in an armed rebellion against the Conservative government. To their minds, this would be the height of irresponsibility. Alfonso López had made this patently clear to the guerrillas of the Llanos when he went to visit them, as we have seen. Upon 15

16 his return to Bogotá, López wrote a long letter on August 25, 1952, to the moderate Conservative and former president, Mariano Ospina Pérez, laying out the views of the leading liberals in what he knew was a vain effort to bring about an understanding with the opposing party. López made it clear that he and his colleagues understood that they would almost certainly have to break their ties to their followers. For the sake of peace, they were willing to do so. Si es esta la última oportunidad que tienen los directores del liberalismo para cumplir su destino histórico, según los contemplan o interpretan los jefes de la revuelta armada, estamos resueltos a perderla; y más todavía, a que se produzca el rompimiento definitivo con el pueblo que ellos nos anuncian, antes de allanarnos a dejar de servirlo como nosotros creemos mejor, o a defraudar la confianza pública en la seriedad de las convicciones y propósitos con que hemos venido apersonando la política de paz y concordia. (291) To fight would be to lose their hard-earned place as civilian politicians who believed in the viability of their institutions. It would be to go against everything they believed in. Eduardo Santos made the point just as dramatically. On March 3, 1953, he wrote that No se puede luchar contra un ejército organizado con escopetas, revólveres y garrotes. Tratar de hacerlo tan solo perjuicios trae para la causa que se quiere defender. En Colombia, la obra de los guerrilleros, cualquiera que sea el móvil que tengan, ha producido infinitos y daños incalculables a miles y miles de liberales y además de esto, ese camino no lleva a ninguna parte. Yo deseo abiertamente que todos cese, que se abandonen esos métodos de lucha, que nos concretemos tan solo a la acción civil que requiere tanto valor como otra, y quizás más. Por los caminos de la violencia armada, las guerrillas, la guerra civil, el liberalismo no tiene nada que ganar y sí mucho que perder. (227) To fight would be to lose on the battlefield, and to be left with nothing. To urge their followers to get up and fight would be to demand that many give up their lives in a bloodbath that could have no positive results for anyone. This was something that the Liberals were clearly not prepared to undertake. They would not ask for such a huge human sacrifice, when little if anything was to be gained from it. Santos was desparate. He dearly wanted a return to peace and tranquility, but there was not much that he could do to bring it about. The liberal leaders knew that they could send out one proclama after another to the various liberal bands, but that many of them would not heed their call to put down their arms. The influence and control over their followers was extremely limited. Their party was little more than a 16

17 series of personalistic ties between them and middlemen in the countryside, who in turn could not have convinced those bands that remained in arms, to stop what they were doing. Many of the jefes may also have understood why the guerrillas would not put down their guns. López did. Los revolucionarios consideran muerta la política de paz y de concordia que hemos venidos desarrolando, y, de consiguiente, declaran descartada toda posible colaboración con el adversario; vale decir, con el gobierno y con el conservatismo. Lógicamente, desde su punto de vista, nos invitan a acampañarlos en el movimiento en que ellos están comprometidos (290) As López and his colleagues faced this plethora of claims from below, he must have sensed that while there was a considerable respect coming at them from below, that the general picture of Colombian society is not one of deference, as Deas would put it years later. 20 López comprehended the claims that were being made on him and his urban colleagues. Yet, he could not accept them. The Liberals also knew that they could do next to nothing to control the Conservatives, that their ties to Laureano Gómez and Urdaneta Arbeláez had been broken, and that the Conservative government was out to restore its power and influence in the countryside, that chulavita violence was their means of accomplishing that end. López placed the blame for the violence not on his liberal followers, but squarely in the lap of the Conservative government. La impunidad de que el presidente Gómez lamentaba ver enfermo el país, no disminuye. No es exagerado decir que el govierno la estimula de varias maneras, directa o indirectamente. No batalla contra ella. The inability of the Liberals to exert influence over the rural followers was also due to the Conservatives. El fracaso de estos esfuerzos será el mejor testimonio de que el gobierno no ha querido la paz en las coyunturas que la vío acercarse con el concurso de la Dirección Liberal. Estoy convencido que no la ha querido ni la quiere así. Tampoco quiere que la bandera de la paz se vea flotando en manos de ella. (292) The Liberals were between a rock and a hard place, and they knew it. The very existence of the Liberal bands made it possible for the Conservative government to increase its violence against them, and they could do little to bring those bands back into the civilian institutions of the land. Yo pienso que el estado de sitio permanente y la censura de prensa son condiciones esenciales del ensayo de gobierno falangista a que estamos asistiendo, y que las guerrillas suministran a los ingenieros del nuevo orden la 17

18 más socorrida disculpa para mantener el régimen de fuerza. (293) To fight would be to play into the Conservatives hands. Perhaps more so than any previous generation of leaders, those who were living through the beginnings of La Violencia were urban men. They lived at a far greater distance from the countryside and its rustic ways than did those leaders of the previous century who led their men into battle. Doing so now was simply unimaginable. Riding horses was little more than a hobby. Getting on that horse in the Llanos must not have been an easy or pleasant task for Alfonso López when he went out to visit with Franco and his guerrilleros. He certainly made sure that he did not spend the night in their camp. They were lawyers and engineers, poets and writers, intellectuals, men of civilian politics. Some indeed were landowners, and afluent ones 21 at that, but they no longer saw their rural workers as men whom they could also take away from their laboring tasks to encourage them to rise up for the bellicose aims of their respective political parties. Indeed, there can be little doubt that they would feel downright foolish doing so. They were concerned for their followers, to be sure, even though they held them at a distance, and generally thought little of their lives. They looked down on rural folk. There is no question that they had urged them on from the city to defend the ideals of the party, and that these calls often led to violenca and to death. The newspapers were filled with this partisan verbal warfare. The American Ambassador, Willard Beaulac, was disconcerted by it all. But violence, I found, was more or less taken for granted Within a few months of my arrival [in 1947], open warfare between partisans of othe two political parties had broken out in several provinces I could not find, he states, chillingly, that these things caused excessive concern in Bogotá. The embassador, found, much to his shock, that press reports and editorials, and the no less violent statements of certain political leaders ecacerbated feeling and incited further violence. He referred to the leaders of Colombia as complacent democrats. 22 Pécaut, when he arrived some fifteen years later, was also struck by the great distance between those at the top of society and the rest, even in the city. He notes a cierto desprecio hacía las percepciones propias de las clases subalternas. Sorprendía más bien la manera como se hacían visibles las diferencias de estatus social por la manera de vestirse, unos con ruana y otros con corbata de empleado o cn el traje y las gafas negras de los ejecutivos, pero también por la manera de caminar en la séptima y las formas de dirigirse unos a otros, 18

19 por el Su Merced boyacense que tanto se escuchaba. It is unlikely that the Liberal leaders were reluctant to call their followers out to battle because they saw much of themselves in their lives, or that their was a sense of fraternity. More likely, they felt a need to help protect those who did not know how to take care of themselves, or at least to not encourage them to engage in activities that would make their lives either much more difficult, or shorter. As importantly, perhaps more so, was the very fact that the Liberal leaders saw themselves as men of peace, and were convinced that the future of the country resided in the civilian institutions they had been carving out in the cities. The distance between jefes and guerrilleros was large. It can be seen crystallized in the relationship between Minuto and Darío Echandía which we have examined earlier. The fact that the jefe he could live a life in which he strove to be free of rencor, of animosity, towards those who bore him ill will, was for him a source of abiding pride and satisfaction. It defined him as a man of reason who could reach compromises with those with whom he disagreed, a man who separated his personal feelings from his politics. For Minuto it mean that the leader was not really a man. Echandía in turn understood that revenge was an intergral part of the lives of his followers, and the fighting was never going to be far from their lives. Thus, the behavior of the guerrilleros and of all those in the countryside who went at each other in those early years of La Violencia, was somewhow predictable, even inevitable. The Liberals best, and perhaps only option, was to leave those struggles behind, to not add to them, to make sure that they did not incite the passions of their followers any more than they were already inflamed. This must have appeared to them to be the most reasonable course under the horrendous circumstances in which they had been forced to live. One is reminded of the anecdote about that gringo doctor that López recounts for Franco Isaza s benefit: No se haga nada, despreocupese. Olvide la dolencia, me alenté y aquí estoy. Ve Franco, el remdio tan sencillo. Breaking off with the guerrilleros, was of course, no easy remedy, but it was perhaps the best one. And it made a great deal of sense. If only the liberal bands would just forget the whole thing and return to their daily lives, the Conservative government and its chulavitas would have no one to fight and peace would be quickly restored. López s notion was not, moreover, hatched from nowhere. The notion of letting go may have been widely shared at the time. In El cristo de espaldas, the bishop tells his frustrated young priest, who has returned to the city after having failed to minister to his flock after only a few days of insistent, sincere work in one of the 19

20 furthest little town in the countryside, that Aguarda, hombre de Dios! Para todo habrá tiempo. Tienes que aprender que en los pueblos no hay problemas impostergables. Como por lo general se resuelven solos, la experiencia me ha enseñado que lo mejor es no resolverlos. 23 But, as we now know from hindsight, things did not take care of themselves in the countryside. As matters worsened, the urban leaders turned away all the more, in fear and disgust. Clearly, there was little they could do about all the bloodletting. When they encouraged Gustavo Rojas Pinilla to take over the reigns of power,they could understand that it was now the task of a new government, and of the military, to take care of matters. When they orchestrated the Frente Nacional, they felt that they had devised a formula to return the nation to peace. When peace only came in a peacemeal fashion, they wondered what was going on. When the guerrillas claimed to be communists, they felt that what they did no longer their responsibility, if it ever had been, and was now more the results of international forces than anything they had or had not done. When the guerrillas kept on struggling into the 1980s and 1990s, many must have been puzzled. After all, there are many countries in Latin America and throughout the world that with rural poverty, inequality, and imperfect political institutions. But only one country in Latin America continues to have an on-going guerrilla insurgency. With the past shrouded in mystery, the current conflicts are perplexing to behold, and difficult, if not impossible to explain. After all, nothing that has ever taken place in the countryside during the past five decades has resembled anything like a civil war. Not even in the 1950s when local Liberals and Conservatives here and there went after each other, has this conflict pitted two sides of a nation against each other, each with an army, an ideology, a reason to defeat the other side. On the contrary, it is a conflict in which the vast majority of the population, urban but also rural, have not been involved. Nor is this a class war in which the poor and their guerrilla leaders rose up against capitalist classes in the countryside in an effort to lay claim to the land for those who worked it, and to bring about a new social order in Colombia on the basis of the new power of that new rural class. There are deep economic features to these conflicts, or course, but they are more amorphous, ambiguous, sporadic to be seen as a class war. If anything, the guerrilleros protection of the colonos over time has been mainly a defensive to keep them alive, to move them away from the attacks of those above them, than to form them into armies to fight the 20

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