Response of Comrade Timoleon Jimenez, Commander in Chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP), to the letter sent by the Association of Indigenous Councils CXHABWA THE KIWE (northern Cauca). Rough translation by redguard. Read the original in Spanish here.
I have become aware of the communication recently sent by you, which I took care to read with the utmost respect and attention. With the same clarity and frankness with which the Association expresses its thoughts and purposes, I proceed to answer your questions in my capacity as Commander of the General Staff of the FARC-EP, an organization which as you know, was born in 1964 in the Colombian political life as an expression of popular resistance to the war of aggression against the people, and is about to mark 50 years of unwavering struggle for peace.
That you so fervently express the longing for peace confirms our belief that the great majority of Colombians in the four corners of the country cry out for that precious right. The Colombian civil war has not been a decision of the people of this country, but an imposition of the dominant propertied classes. It is natural that the people who suffer the hardest demand peace, and we are the first to do so. That’s why we fight in every way possible.
It is recognized by many scholars of the Colombian reality that war in our country responds to a model of capital accumulation. The dispossession of land ownership and increasing concentration in few hands, so amazingly coincided with successive attacks on agricultural areas by government forces and paramilitaries The FARC are not mercenaries or conscripted soldiers, but simple people of Colombia who have risen to resistance: peasants, Indians, Blacks and mestizos who decided to take up arms against this aggression.
It is absolutely true that the eviction of Native Americans has been underway for more than five centuries. All the more reason to fight for their just demands. We share fully all the aspirations of Indigenous communities and in fact we are supporting them at the risk of our lives. But the force of historical events also imposes that the Indians are not the only abused and persecuted communities in Colombia.
The serious conflict in Colombia cannot be solved only for indigenous communities, simply because you are part of Colombia, and live in the same territories coveted by landlords and investors who rob settlers, miners, workers and other exploited sectors.
With all due respect and consideration, I would express that it is a mistake to be isolated from the rest of Colombians who cry fervently for peace and social justice, as they will not be able to conquer alone. The Colombian army does not just occupy Indian reservations, but is fulfilling its predatory work throughout the country. Its mission is to provide security to investors, businessmen and landowners or foreign transnational corporations, by crushing opposition to the model of plunder and impoverishment they defend.
We not only believe that the Army should leave indigenous communities, but communities throughout the Colombian countryside. Its natural mission is a border garrison to defend national sovereignty, but the ruling classes have created a powerful machine in the service of foreign interests, led directly by U.S. generals.
The recognition of the autonomy and authority of indigenous communities do not make us blind to the amount of interest that come to them. If the Spanish conquistadors took advantage of the Church, personal compliments and even the corruption of many chiefs as advanced mechanisms for predatory presence, we know that the same happens today via several humanitarian organizations, welfare or patronage. Phenomena like these undermine the credibility of many leaders in their own indigenous base and break your organization.
We feel sincere respect for the opposition to the use of violence as a means of struggle. In a civilized society, outside of class interests, surely such a claim will be widespread. That is why we fight. But the fact remains that the realities of Colombia, ruled for centuries by a violent and aggressive breed, eventually yielded a response from below. And that’s also a respectable form of struggle that cannot be done away with without wiping out history.
As inferred from its aspiration to develop a plan, with no change in economic, political, social and cultural factors that dominate the rest of the country. Your problem cannot be examined in the light of the mere non-presence of the army or the guerrillas in the reservations, because Santos and the Army will never leave their bases. Because this presence embodies a model of national domination, continental and global aspirations. What you need to defeat is that model, and for this we must begin by changing the regime.
That is our struggle and that of millions of Colombians, which would be strengthened if you also support their claims. The issue of the hour is to unite forces, not separate them.
Wars are bloody, plus the people face terrorist regimes in the service of imperial powers. All the machinery — military, economic, ideological and political — is put into play by the latter for the sake of victory. It includes vile propaganda, lies and gross provocations. We are all victims of that together.
If healthy Indian youths join our ranks, who grew up in desperate poverty and are eager to fight to improve the lot of their people, we cannot reject them. The same happens with farmers, miners, workers, students and all young Colombians who decide to join the fight. The rules of humanitarian law you cite prohibit locating bases and barracks of war amongst the people. We never do.
You demand that we not use our weapons at risk to civilians. We are the civilian population forced to rise against state and paramilitary violence. We could never have in mind the idea of hurting innocent people. We share completely your claim and are in full readiness to prevent it. But what to do with the terrorist forces of occupation? The heroic efforts to counter them we consider valid and legitimate.
If Colombia ceases military operations, bombings and shootings, forced displacement and dispossession of land, crimes against the people and impunity, certainly there will not be any sense to continue the existence of the guerrillas. If the army, police and paramilitary forces pulls out of Cauca, if it ends its war against indigenous people, peasants, miners and people in general, we will not have trouble getting out too.
Across Colombia a noisy clamor for peace is growing: For a political solution to the confrontation. That was among the oldest of our flags. It is the regime which has never been ready to end its predilection for violence. It is they who must be forced to open a dialogue. You who suffer more than ever the characteristic style of responding in Colombia to the aspirations of peace are certainly welcome to work for it.
Please accept my warm embrace, which is that of all FARC-EP, all the Colombian people that admire, applaud and support you.
Timoleon Jimenez, Commander of the General Staff of the FARC-EP
Mountains of Colombia, July 20, 2012