[News] Colombia’s insurgency resumes: why Segunda Marquetalia, a wing of the Farc, have returned to war

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 17 12:33:06 EDT 2021


https://challenge-magazine.org/2021/03/16/colombias-insurgency-resumes-why-segunda-marquetalia-a-wing-of-the-farc-have-returned-to-war/
Colombia’s
insurgency resumes: why Segunda Marquetalia, a wing of the Farc, have
returned to war
March 16, 2021
------------------------------

*Inside a base in the Catatumbo mountains, Oliver Dodd speaks to Comandante
Villa Vazquez in the first ever face-to-face interview with a senior figure
in the recently re-established guerilla army*
*Oliver Dodd, *is a member of the Communist Party’s Nottingham Branch

DESPITE signing the 2016 peace deal
<https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/09/colombia-farc-santos-uribe-paramilitaries-drugs/>
that
brought more than 50 years of war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (Farc) to an end, the nation’s establishment, including the
right-wing government, have refused to implement the terms of the agreement.

Instead, the state and business community saw peace as an economic
opportunity: with the biggest threat to capitalist accumulation out of the
way, former Farc-controlled territories have become the veins through which
multinational corporations have looked to expand through industries that
have a heavy impact on the now-unprotected land and those who live off it.

Mining, logging, drilling for oil, palm-oil extraction, privatisation of
fresh water sources, poaching and narco-traffickers have been laying waste
to former Farc strongholds, forcing millions of peasants from their homes
and into Colombia’s slums, where few jobs and little to no social security
awaits them.

At the same time, more than 1,200 social movement leaders, especially trade
unionists and ex-Farc combatants have been assassinated by paramilitaries
since 2016. Colombian courts have continued the wartime practice of
prosecuting left-wing insurgents but not state actors.

The high hopes of the Farc, which announced its reformation as a legal
political party
<https://theconversation.com/colombias-farc-rebels-have-rebranded-as-a-political-party-now-they-need-a-leader-82728>under
the same acronym – the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, before
renaming themselves Comunes – have so far been dashed, as they have failed
to secure any serious land or political reforms as agreed, and, now
unarmed, face the pre-existing level of para-state violence.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, on August 29, 2019 scores of historically
important Farc leaders, some of whom had suddenly and dramatically
disappeared from public life, split from the legal political party,
regrouped militarily, and announced
<https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Minority-Faction-of-FARC-Leadership-Take-Up-Arms-20190829-0002.html>
the
re-establishment of a party that would combine a legal political struggle
in the social movements and trade unions, with an armed struggle in rural
and urban spaces.

In their Political Manifesto, this faction – known more specifically as
Farc (Segunda Marquetalia) to distinguish itself from its predecessor and
other ex-Farc combatants who have chosen to continue struggling for the
implementation of the agreement peacefully as part of Comunes – declared
that it was a strategic mistake to have given up their weapons prior to the
implementation of the peace agreement, concluding that this was the only
way that the agreement could have been guaranteed in a country that has
long been the most repressive in Latin America.

Comunes, which is headed by the Farc’s highest ranking commander when the
2016 peace agreement was signed, Rodrigo Londono, argues that it is
imperative that ex-Farc combatants continue to defend the peace agreement
as part of a process of establishing national reconciliation and political
legitimacy for the left.

But although a clear majority of historic ex-Farc combatants remain active
legally as Comunes, the Segunda Marquetalia represents a significant split.
Researcher Oliver Dodd with Comandante Villa Vazquez

To understand the political situation and the perspective of Segunda
Marquetalia forces, I travelled to Colombia’s rural Catatumbo region to
observe the re-founded group as they regenerate their political-military
struggle and interview one of their leading figures, Comandante Villa
Vazquez, who is responsible for the Danilo Garcia Command and is a member
of Segunda Marquetalia’s equivalent of a central committee, known as the
National Directorate.

As a teenager, Vazquez joined the Young Communist League, a group closely
affiliated with the legal Communist Party. When more than 5000 unarmed
left-wing activists, mainly from the Patriotic Union party which emerged
from the peace negotiations of La Uribe, were massacred by death squads in
the mid to late 1980s, he took up arms and has been a member of the Farc
ever since.

Many of those killed were butchered using the most gruesome methods
imaginable — often working with the military, a favourite paramilitary
tactic is to sever the limbs of socialists using chainsaws and machetes
before dumping the corpses in the river or leaving them to rot in the
villages and towns as a warning.
Rosa Mendoza and her daughter

The slaughter continues: in December 2020, Rosa Mendoza, an ex-Farc
combatant, was murdered along with five members of her family, including a
daughter only a few months old. On February 13 23-year-old Leonel Restrepo
became the 258th former Farc combatant murdered in the “peace” process. The
number has since risen to 259 following the killing of Jose Paiva Virguez
on February 19.

Vazquez insisted that despite the fact that Farc signatories stuck to the
peace agreement and fulfilled their side of the bargain, the Colombian
state reneged on the agreement, continued to murder Farc militants and
other activists and consequently “committed treason at the expense of the
Colombian people, the international community and ex-Farc combatants.”

The commander argued that the Farc and the Colombian people have the right
to rebel and renew the armed struggle because the “Segunda Marquetalia are
the result of the breaking of the 2016 peace accords by Colombia’s
government and oligarchy.”

Pointing to the increase as opposed to decrease of paramilitary killings,
Vazquez concluded that “all our hopes were in the agreement, but the
agreement was betrayed by the government and other dominant class forces.
That is why we had to return to arms. But it is not the Farc who has
returned to arms — it is the people themselves. Today, we can say that 60
per cent of [Segunda Marquetalia’s] fighters are new, they are not
ex-members.”

In response to Colombia’s establishment dismissing the Segunda Marquetalia
as an apolitical criminal entity, Vazquez described their strategy to me in
detail, drawing out a diagram on my notepad. The Segunda Marquetalia
combines three key organisational structures as part of its overall
strategy: armed guerilla forces, armed and unarmed militia units and an
entirely unarmed Partido Comunista Clandestino de Colombia (Clandestine
Communist Party).

Guerilla forces are primarily but not exclusively responsible for offensive
armed operations against the state and ruling class; the militia are mainly
tasked with promoting the group’s objectives within a specific territory,
such as a town or village – especially those zones that have been taken by
the guerillas; and the Clandestine Communist Party is unarmed – like
conventional communist parties, they work within trade unions, social
movements, universities and local communities, but must remain covert due
to their alignment with Segunda Marquetalia.

Insisting that Segunda Marquetalia is principally a political party as
opposed to an armed group, Vazquez said that “Weapons are part of the
combination of the ways of struggling and are a guard of ideas” and “it is
not that we are going to take power through an armed movement — armed
struggle happens because there are no warranties to manifest ideas.”

Vazquez baulked at their characterisation as a peasant rebellion. The three
organisational components — guerilla, militia and communist party, he said,
reflect the peculiar historical conditions of the class struggle in
Colombia.

“Where does the revolutionary struggle develop?” he asked me. “It is
developed where the people are, not in the isolation of the jungle but
where the masses of people are — and most people today are based in the
cities and that is where the revolutionary and guerilla struggle is going
to be developed.”

By carrying out key functions of the state in its base areas and
strongholds — taxation, security and infrastructure maintenance — the
leadership proclaims their organisation to be a legitimate form of
government, sustained by a comprehensive political programme and social
contract.

Although the group was only re-established on August 29, 2019, Segunda
Marquetalia already has a significant base of civilian support in the
communities I visited. I watched their troops pass through villages
unhindered and saw their members work openly, interacting with the
civilians in the streets, even holding public meetings, seemingly unafraid
that their presence could be reported to the Colombian military.

A local woman living in a farm within a Farc stronghold, who did not see
herself as a socialist or political activist, told me, “The community here
prefers the Farc [Segunda Marquetalia] to the police and military.”

“They are always around to help immediately when asked. They are part of us
and support us with basic needs in a difficult situation. They also help us
to organise the community here.”

However, the recent claims of Colombia’s largest magazine Semana, that they
have 5,000 combatants and are supported by Caracas which allows them to
systematically exploit Venezuelan territory is clearly inaccurate.

Although it might seem counterproductive for pro-state media to exaggerate
the success of its enemies, it serves to justify increases in the already
extensive military aid that Colombia receives – as well as giving the
United States a pretext for action against Venezuela.

In truth Segunda Marquetalia is a newly formed group and while being able
to rely on civilian support in some communities, as a recent breakaway
faction, the number of combatants is significantly smaller than the Farc
that signed the peace agreement.

Even so, new militants are entering the ranks and committing themselves to
the organisation for life, serving under a highly experienced political
leadership with decades of struggle behind each of them.
Segunda Marquetalia announce their formation — Vazquez is third from the
right

For the government this is a situation of its own making. Unable or
unwilling to guarantee the safety of either demobilised fighters or social
movement figures who played no role in the civil war, it has provoked
exactly this reaction.

Negotiators will be hesitant to trust representatives of Colombia’s state
in future peace talks – and Segunda Marquetalia have a lot to bargain with.
The taxation of multinational corporations and extractive industries
exploiting natural resources, as well as the black market, enable them to
feed combatants three meals a day, clothe and arm them with modern weaponry
and transport.

They have the money and resources to allow all of their members to dedicate
24 hours a day, 365 days a year to the cause.

And that is where the money goes; the life of a Farc member of any rank,
has always been simple – true of all the left-wing Colombian guerilla
movements I have studied in the last 10 years I have spent in the field.

I walked with Vazquez through a small farm where the guerillas were growing
their own food and rearing livestock; each day they take it in turns to
manage the crops and feed the animals, a method of self-reliance that
Vazquez was proud of.

Although, he said, “expenses are significant for an organisation like ours,
as revolutionaries we cultivate, we invent things such as creating
agricultural collectives with the population, we develop economic
activities, including producing our own food.”

By the time I had finished my interview with Vazquez and had observed
Segunda Marquetalia in their home territory over the period of a week, it
was clear to me that the re-founded movement was already growing deep roots.

The failure to implement structural reforms addressing the super-profits of
the extractive sectors, large landowners and other capitalists, while
refusing to halt the forced displacement of peasants, a major demand of the
2016 agreement, all but guarantees that the organisation will gradually
expand.

The Colombian state’s perfidious approach to the peace process as a way to
disarm and demobilise the most pressing threat to capitalism, was simply
war by other means – and now the Segunda Marquetalia was replying in kind.
A spectre once again haunts Colombia: it is the spectre of the Farc.

*Oliver Dodd*
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