Colombia: Guerrillas Demobilize, Forgive & Move On
photo credit: Fernando Vergara/AP
Is peace with a guerrilla movement, followed by democratic political reintegration, actually possible? As Colombia continues to negotiate in Havana with its notorious FARC rebel group, its own history suggests maybe so. Continue reading on Ozy…
I Am A Gypsy
Uncle Conrado was crushing them. One nut after another. He ripped the shells off with his hands and as he popped one into his mouth with one hand, his fingers were already in the bowl, hunting for another. You’d think it would be boring to watch an 83 year old man eat nuts, but it actually wasn’t because it wasn’t just about the nuts.
Ever since I met him, I had wanted to know what made Uncle Conrado so prosperous. But what really got me was all he had to endure happening around him in Colombia when he started out. This is a personal essay on the memories of a circus master, Colombia’s ‘pájaros’ killers of the 1950s, and dignity. Continue reading on Beacon…
If The Dynamite Goes Off
It was already 11am and our bus had screeched to a halt around 2am that morning. When I woke up, I first thought we had broken down, but then I saw the long line of tractor trailers, engines off, packed like sardines, one after another. Traffic was frozen. It felt like the greatest traffic jam in the world.
Fighting between Colombia’s military and Farc rebels broke out on the road between Barranquilla and Medellín. The road was dynamited, and that meant my bus traveling the route from the coast to the interior was stuck. A personal essay on getting trapped in a mountain traffic jam, Colombia’s armed conflict, and hostility. Continue reading on Beacon…
Who is responsible for Colombia’s history of violence?
‘Who is responsible for Colombia’s history of violence?’ is a hard history to unravel.
Al Jazeera English takes a look at the rise of Colombia’s right-wing paramilitaries as another chapter in the country’s complex constellation of violent political actors. The documentary draws on connections to deeper context surrounding figures like Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and Pablo Escobar. A few years old, but still very relevant.
Pablo Escobar: One of the Bad Boys of Latin American History
He was the original narco — the ultraviolent, extravagant bad guy who set the standard.
Before he was gunned down atop the Spanish-tiled rooftops of a Medellín neighborhood in 1993, Pablo Escobar had tightened his ruthless grip on drug trafficking across the Americas. At the same time, he cultivated a reputation as a Robin Hood who tossed goodies to the poor even as he built a grandiose palace for himself on 5,500 acres, complete with a private zoo and orchard. Al Pacino’s character in the 1983 coke-and-violence-fueled Scarface was reportedly based in part on Escobar’s bloody tale. Continue reading at Ozy…
Pablo Escobar: Robin Hood or Dastard and Crook?
After the Western Hemisphere’s most wanted man, a Drug Lord named ‘Shorty’ Guzman, got nabbed by Mexican Marines this week, different perspectives whirred through the media.
The question is whether or not his capture signals progress in the War on Drugs, or chaos for Mexicans as his drug empire – the Sinaloa Cartel – splinters in the wake of his absence.
A little further south, in Colombia, the question was over Pablo Escobar, the country’s Drug Baron of the 1980s. Was a country post-Pablo Escobar really a better one? Violence continued after his death. And vigilante groups – the same ones that are cropping up across Mexico – were usually the perpetrators.
Pablo Escobar remains a controversial figure in Colombia. Many remember him as a dastard and a crook. But others view him as a Robin Hood or a Savior for the poor more than a criminal.
The AFP reports on how the citizens of Medellín, Escobar’s home city, remember him…
How now (if he doesn’t escape from prison by some tricky scheme like last time) will Mexico – and the world – remember ‘Shorty’?
John Carlin reaches at reconciliation in Colombia
John Carlin has a big mission in Colombia: he wants to bring reconciliation to the country’s conflict, adding a new dimension to the peace talks that have been going on for over a year now in Havana, Cuba, a negotiations intended to end a half-century of conflict between FARC rebels and the Colombian government.
Carlin’s project, called Reconciliación Colombia, wants to get people from around the country talking about the silent progressive they have made in overcoming the conflict. In a sense it’s a way to cut through the blaring noise over the drama of conflict that continues under the hum of the talks, something that often soaks up the media’s attention.
From the project’s site…
Medios de comunicación y ciudadanos –a través de las redes sociales– decidieron sentar su posición frente a la iniciativa Reconciliación Colombia… una alianza de 35 organizaciones sociales, empresariado y prensa en un intento por resaltar procesos y experiencias que han avanzado en el camino hacia la reconciliación, a pesar de la adversidad.
News outlets and citizens – through social networks – decided to set out their position through the initiative Reconciliación Colombia… an alliance of 35 social, business and press organizations in an attempt to highlight processes and experiences that have advanced in the road toward reconciliation, despite all the adversity.
John Carlin, born to a Scottish father and a Spanish mother, developed chops early on for diplomacy when his father was stationed in Buenos Aires as a diplomat. He worked around Latin America as a reporter in the 1980s before turning his attention to South Africa’s struggle for reconciliation. In South Africa, as a journalist, Carlin studied Nelson Mandela’s tactics for reconciling a nation torn apart by apartheid.
The project Carlin is behind might sound like a big PR event to promote the peace talks – a government policy many on the right in Colombia oppose. But the man behind the project might be worth listening to for getting through a half century of fighting. After all, of this Mandela had to say to him:
“What you wrote and the way in which you carried out your task in this country was absolutely magnificent…it was absolutely inspiring. You have been very courageous, saying things which many journalists would never say.”
More about the project in Colombia media:
El proceso de paz, la lucha entre la reconciliación y la venganza: John Carlin
Chrysanthemums for Colombia?
In a story published last week, the AP made sure President of Uruguay José ‘Pepe’ Mujica’s tirade got the color it deserved when it went to press.
From the AP’s story…
War! Imperialism! Tyranny! The Business suit!
In a full throttle attack on ties and suits, Uruguay’s President went off on an angry tirade at the Economic Congress for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) held last week. Sitting before Latin America’s leaders, his rhetoric, though a bit grumpy, was at least very honest.
After the business suit, President Mujica is honest about other things he likes and doesn’t like: he doesn’t like the wasteful consumption patterns found in modern cities. He refuses to live in the Presidential Palace in Montevideo, resorting instead to a small farm outside of the city, where he farms Chrysanthemum flowers. Why? It’s what he likes. He drives an old sky blue Volkswagen Beetle on weekends, and gives away about 90% of his salary to charity.
After peeling back his eccentric lifestyle and poetic rhetoric though, Uruguay’s President is promoting concrete progressive social reform at home – like legalizing cannabis consumption – and abroad, like his offer to participate in a peace process between the Colombian government and its second largest guerrilla faction: the ELN.
From an interview with Al Jazeera…
“Colombia has one of the strongest militaries in Latin America, with notorious backing from the United States, which means interference in the region. From afar it seems like a war without a solution, and like a long sacrifice for the country. So when a President appears who supports a path to peace, I think that deserves support. Because there’s a lot of pain, and if they try to settle the scores, war will never end.”
So far, it’s unclear to what extent Colombia is interested in having President Mujica’s voice at the negotiating table. But for the leader of one of Latin America’s least corrupt, least violent societies, and with a personal history as an urban guerrilla, having been shot, jailed and sentenced by military tribunal to more than a decade of prison with solitary confinement sprinkled in, his experience – and maybe even his views – might be worth hearing about.
photo source: NA
Are the FARC afraid of a peace agreement?
“The FARC are scared of reaching a peace agreement,” Daniel Pécaut told Cali based newspaper El Pais de Cali in an interview recently.
Pécaut is a French sociologist and historian who has covered Colombia’s armed conflict almost since it started. He went on to add that it would be very difficult to secure a peace deal in the time remaining.
“Yo creo que será difícil en el plazo que queda y es muy difícil con elecciones sin saber nada de los resultados de meses de negociación.
La idea fundamental es que en el país no hay movilización en favor de la paz, son muy pocos los preocupados por la paz y por eso de los dos lados están más o menos aislados.
“I believe that it will be difficult in the time that remains and it’s very difficult with elections without knowing anything about the results of months of negotiation. The fundamental issue is that there isn’t mobilization in favor of peace, very few are worried over a peace deal and for that reason the two sides are getting more and more isolated.”