False positives in Colombia

False Positives

Gloria Gaitán – Aporrea

Translation: Machetera

“False positives” is a post-September 11 Creole expression which came about during the Álvaro Uribe government, to describe the absolutely false supposedly “anti-terrorist” actions used by the regime to throw up curtains of smoke whenever highly scandalous situations present themselves, as has happened repeatedly throughout his entire mandate.

This week, faced with the seriousness of “parapolitica” [paramilitary politics], the extradition of paramilitaries in order to silence them and the denunciations of the ex-Congresswoman Yedis Medina – who has been showing how the second re-election of Álvaro Uribe is illegitimate because it happened thanks to bribes and criminal extortion – false positives have been the order of the day, filling the national atmosphere.

As everyone knows, Colombia’s Attorney General’s office – whose director was until very recently the President’s employee – charged three members of Congress, four foreigners and various Colombian citizens as presumed FARC criminal “accomplices”. The accusations that are known publicly have to do with contacts made to forge a humanitarian agreement with the guerrillas and thereby allow the liberation of all hostages. But for the Uribe government, that is a sin, because he doesn’t want the hostages released, but rather, to crush and defeat the guerrillas. He is completely indifferent to the lives of the people who remain in guerrilla hands and the atrocious torments suffered by their families. Therefore, for those people who “dared” to try to reach a humanitarian accord, this is obviously a criminal matter.

On Saturday, when the country had not yet moved on from this particular false positive, the Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, offhandedly mentioned the news supposedly collected from the Herculean computers attributed to Raúl Reyes, that the [FARC] Commandante, Manuel Marulanda, had died of a heart attack in March of this year. This is the eleventh time that the FARC founder and leader has been publicly declared dead. The President himself says that the news arrived through an informant for the intelligence services that, according to him, had never failed them.

I don’t know then, whether it is a false positive or if the news is accurate, but I can only express here the strange feeling it left me with. It’s as if the potential disappearance of Manuel Marulanda buries a part of my personal life, because when one ages, one realizes that death comes a little at a time, making those who shared various moments of our own lives disappear. The shared memory dies with them.

This feeling of “shared” memory brought me closer to Manuel. That’s how it was when I met various times with him.

Once I went to the camp at Casa Verde, where the leader was still Jacobo Arenas. Jacobo and I talked for three days without stopping. Manuel hardly spoke, but what little we did say made it impossible for me to contain my tears, because we shared with great emotional force the fact that he and I had begun our path of struggle against the oligarchies who were at the root of the persecution which victimized us starting in 1948, when the paramilitaries, created in 1946 by the Mariano Ospina Pérez regime – those who were then popularly called “birds” or “chuladitas” – began to pursue the Gaitanistas [followers of the writer’s father] who’d taken over the leadership of the Liberal Party. Hence the thought that this persecution was directed at liberals, when the real victims were identified as Gaitanistas, through intimidation and punishment for having dared to take hold of the Liberal Party, even reaching the doors of the Presidential palace, with Jorge Eliécer Gaitán as their electorally invincible candidate.

They killed my father, with the complicity and participation of the CIA. Manuel and his family had their land stolen and were able to save their lives because they fled to the mountains, in self-defense, fighting initially with machetes and handheld pistols, coming from poverty to attain a rebel army of more than 8,000 men.

This is not to speak of my political journey, but of the communion at the root of our struggles. Later on we saw each other again, when I was invited to deliver a seminar on Gaitanism to the commanders of several fronts; educative work that was frustrated by the threat of bombing, which forced us to disperse.

There again, we returned to invoke the roots of our struggle. We even spoke of our differences, which were many, but this common origin has always maintained (I still even speak in the present tense) an imperceptible common thread between us. I don’t know if this assertion will bring the Attorney General to accuse me of being a “terrorist” and complicit with the FARC. I don’t care. The new generations should know how the war was born and I believe that today I can repeat the title of one of my articles that, like all of them, has been little read and hardly distributed, which I called: “The Metastasis of the FARC from Gaitanismo.” Yes, a metastasis with all the negativity and cruelty that it signifies. Not for nothing did my father think and say, “If they kill me, the country will turn upside down.” And so it did. Marulanda, with his strategic capacity and I, with my great limitations, are the result of that catastrophe which split Colombia’s history in two and that with the government of Uribe Vélez has arrived at Dante’s inferno.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

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