A whole controversy was generated in the country after knowing a part of the statement before the JEP of the number one of the Farc, Rodrigo Londoño, Timochenko, in which he did not recognize that the Farc had recruited minors forcibly.
In dialogue with EL TIEMPO, Londoño assured that “The Farc was reached consciously.”
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Much has been said about your statement at the JEP, what did you say?
The truth, our truth, what I know, what I knew and what I can attest to the struggle of the Farc. There is undoubtedly an old dirty propaganda campaign against us, fueled today to the extreme by our political opponents.
The FARC were a revolutionary organization, made up of men and women who consciously joined the armed struggle. Our adversaries are capable of hiring firms that are experts in defamation, as was presented with the barrage against the Supreme Court and justice. It is the same campaign that seeks not only to discredit the courts, but also the JEP.
Why did you deny the responsibility of the Farc in the recruitment of children?
Are you sure we deny that responsibility? Do you know the full five hours of my statement or those of the other former officers appearing? The presentations before the JEP are broad, contextualized, explanatory, it is very difficult to synthesize them in a few lines or a couple of sentences. Every time we try we are subjected to the subsequent onslaught based on hatred and prejudice.
If we think of the word recruitment in a country like ours, in which the Army forced countless generations of boys to pay military service, it is easy to think that the guerrillas acted in the same way. It’s not like that. That I have known, I cannot speak of a single case in which someone has been forced into our ranks. And much less a minor. The Farc was reached consciously.
Is it possible that some fronts of the Farc recruited children?
If we understand a child as anyone under the age of 18, it is definitely possible. In fact, the minimum age to enter the FARC was 15 years old. That way, all that income could be classified as children’s. In this regard there are two things to comment. The first is that according to the rules of international humanitarian law, the valid age to join an army was 15 years old, which can be certified by any expert in the field. The second is that you have to think about the rural world in which the war was fundamentally taking place. Girls and boys in the countryside, particularly in the areas furthest from the populated centers, grow up working alongside their parents.
The social, political and military environment of their regions easily leads them to the guerrillas. This does not mean that there have not been errors, behaviors that, although they were not policy of the organization, occurred beyond the will of it. We will not stop recognizing them. Today, speaking with many ex-guerrillas without the intermediation of the command, they tell you things that you never heard about.
If the recruitment of children was not a policy of the Farc, why were there minors in the guerrilla ranks?
I understand the question in the sense of children under 15 years. If it did occur, they were exceptional, very serious causes, typical of the conditions of the Colombian rural world. One of them, violence. Children of murdered parents, also threatened with death and who had nowhere to go. Or of homes in a sorry state of poverty. There were fathers or mothers who advised their children to go to the guerrillas, where they could have a future.
What to say to the defenders of the peace agreement who demand truth?
That they are absolutely right to claim it. During the dialogues in Havana, those of us who were commanders in the war made the commitment to assume responsibility for the errors and horrors committed within the organization. These acts were in violation of the norms and principles that governed us, but they did happen. As the last commander of the FARC I am obliged to admit that there were serious offenses, such as the entry into the ranks of minors or forced abortions. Another is the case of absolutely false allegations, we are not going to blame ourselves for facts that are not true.
What is your opinion of the entire episode of Salvatore Mancuso’s return to Colombia?
I spoke with Mancuso and listened to his intention to contribute truth. He sent a letter to Dr. Álvaro Leyva in which he presents the risks that weigh against him and his family, and in which he tells how he has been persecuted to collect his statements. I think the country should ask itself with all maturity: who can benefit from Mancuso not declaring the truth?
Do you still believe that former paramilitary commanders should go to the JEP?
What really matters is your contribution to the truth. The victims, the entire country, have the right to know their version, their explanations, their requests for forgiveness. All possibility must be materialized to that truth. If there was a way to go before the JEP, so be it. If it has to be before Justice and Peace, then let it be there, but with all the guarantees so that he can speak freely, without the risk of suffering irreparable consequences.
How are you analyzing the outlook for the 2022 presidential elections?
Some critics accuse the Duque government and his party of making a fatal mistake. They are governing in such a way, earning the animosity of the great Colombian majorities, doing everything they shouldn’t do if they were thinking about their future, that it is most likely that they are serving on a platter what they fear so much. There are clear signs that in 2022 Colombia will make a considerable political turn towards alternative, advanced, democratic options. Personally, I do not believe that Duque and his party are wrong, it is that they think and act like that, it is their nature, they cannot be otherwise. The country is fed up with that party, its corruption, its lies, its indolence in the face of the majority, its exclusive interest in favoring the most economically powerful sectors. They will pay for that at the polls, there is no doubt.
Do you see a possible rapprochement with Gustavo Petro?
Perhaps the word most used by the left and the revolutionary movement in general is the word unity. We are clear that a democratic and progressive unitary option will be victorious in 2022. Another thing if unity is not possible. That is why our interest is to contribute to the maximum in the construction of a great convergence of advanced forces, without prevention against anyone, opening all the possibilities of sums and alliances. Senator Gustavo Petro has many merits even though we have had differences.
JUAN FRANCISCO VALBUENA