Fight Back! conducted the following interview with Marco Leon Calarca, a spokesperson for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), to give our readers a better understanding of the war that is unfolding in Colombia. This is part 1 of a 2-part interview. Click here to see part 2, which appeared in the Winter 2000 edition of Fight Back!
For the last 35 years, the FARC has been fighting to free Colombia from the grip of the tiny class of people that monopolizes the country's land and wealth. Colombia's government and military are dominated by the U.S.
The FARC and other liberation organizations are in the process of defeating the Colombian government. The U.S. response is to step up its intervention.
Already, hundreds of U.S. military personnel have entered Colombia. U.S. planes fly above the battle zones, relaying information to the Colombian military. Congress is getting ready to dramatically increase military aid. There are many reports in the Latin American press that the U.S. government is planning a much wider war after January 2000.
Clinton says we are fighting a "drug war" in Colombia. He lies. The main target of U.S. intervention are the forces that are fighting to end poverty and oppression in their own country.
We urge our readers to join protests in your cities and towns against the U.S. war in Colombia.
This is part one of the interview. It will be continued in the next issue of Fight Back!
FB!: What is the FARC-EP and what do they want?
FARC: The FARC-EP is the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - Popular Army. It was formed in May 1964, by a group of campesinos, or farmworkers, in response to aggression by the Government, which was run by a few rich families. Since Colombia won its independence, the two traditional parties, the Conservative and the Liberal, stole all the national resources for themselves, in the name of democracy. Directed by the U.S. Pentagon, the Colombian Government developed a military plan, called the Latin American Security Operation (LASO), also known as Operation Marquetalia.
46 men and 2 women, poor Colombian farmworkers, arising from the previous violences, who were dedicated to working the land and were trade unionists. Because they wanted to advance international communism, the government saw these people's objectives as military.
It was the excuse of the century, just like now they use the excuse of the "War On Drugs," or so-called threats to democracy. Theirs is democracy for a few rich families, at the expense of the rights of the majority. Or "national security" and supposed "humanitarian intervention," in the interests of the U.S. empire.
In 1964, after many provocations, came the unexpected attack on Marquetalia: "May 27, in the forest, above the Ata River Canyon, the first battle was waged by guerrilla fighters under the leadership of Commander Joselo. The second clash took place on Saturday the 30th, in the village La Suiza, with guerrillas commanded by the unforgettable Isaias Pardo."
This is how, forced by circumstances, on May 27, 1964, in Marquetalia, Colombia gave birth to the guerrilla organization, the FARC. July 20 of the same year, at a meeting of the heroic Marquetalianos who had resisted the Government aggression, they passed the agricultural program of the guerrillas and a summary of the fighting strategy of the FARC. One part says: "We all are revolutionaries who fight for a change of the system. But we wanted and struggled for this change using the least painful path for our people: the peaceful road, the road of democratic mass struggle, legal roads marked out in the Colombian Constitution. This path was violently closed to us. Because we are revolutionaries, who must in one way or another, play the historic role that falls to us. Forced by the circumstances that I already noted, we are inspired to look for another path: the road of the armed revolutionary struggle for power."
The vote by the Marquetalia farmworkers to commit to struggle, and their decision to take up arms to fight for political power in the service of the people, was the direct result of official Government cruelty. Two years later, May 5, 1966, the Second Conference of the Southern Bloc formalized the FARC. The end of their political declaration stated: "The guerrillas of the Southern Bloc stand out in front of all that has come before. We have united in this Conference and established the FARC.
"It is the FARC that will begin a new stage of struggle and of unity with all the revolutionaries of our country, with all the workers and farmworkers, with students and intellectuals, with all our people. They will urge on the struggle of the broad masses towards a popular insurrection and take power for the people."
FB!: In the 1960s, the Vietnam War was a great setback for U.S. imperialism. Is this similar to what is happening in Colombia today?
FARC: Up to this moment, it is not the same situation, because for now the U.S. has about 400 military advisers in Colombia. But the risk we see is that in an eventual U.S. invasion, which they are preparing now, the conflict will become a huge war with unpredictable consequences. We remember that the U.S. started the war in Vietnam with military advisers, and later they sent their armies to a crushing defeat.
FB!: What is the U.S. doing in Colombia? Is the U.S. helping or hurting?
FARC: The U.S. is not to help build peace, nor to solve the economic, political, social, and cultural problems of most Colombians. Everyone knows the international policy of the U.S.: As the world's policeman, using any pretext to justify its intervention and meddling into the affairs of other peoples. Everyone also knows the absolute contempt of the U.S. Government for the sovereignty of other nations and for peoples right to self-determination.