The biographies of Fidel Castro and Pepe Mujica stand out in a library with dozens of volumes on insurgent movements in Latin America. Political scientist, writer and UN adviser on the reintegration of ex-combatants, Dario Villamizar (Bogota, 68 years old) was also a guerrilla in his youth. Since then, he has tirelessly dedicated himself to researching and writing about the armed conflict in Colombia. The author The guerrillas in Colombia Y Chronicle of a lost guerrillaAmong many other titles, he was a member of the M-19, the same group to which President Gustavo Petro belonged. With nearly three months in power, his government intends to implement the peace agreement with the extinct FARC with greater determination and has just launched a dialogue table in Caracas with the ELN, the last armed guerrilla.
Ask. What is needed for the process with the ELN to lead to a peace agreement?
Response. The will is on the table. It is necessary to have a high dose of patience and a great capacity to arrange aspects that can be new in a negotiation. I am referring to the search for transformations, which is precisely the third point of the agreement that is being discussed. So, there the understanding of the parties is absolutely necessary, to understand that through negotiation, through agreement, there will not be a revolution. The ELN must be very clear about that. But it is possible to achieve transformations that mean positive changes, such as those that the Government is proposing.
Q. It is the first time that the counterpart is a left-wing government. Are you optimistic?
R. There is a very positive atmosphere. The two heads of the government delegations and the ELN have common languages. Otty Patino is a person who was linked to the insurgency for many years, and who has been involved in politics for many years. Pablo Beltran, too. Seating a sector of the rural business community at the table is extremely important, as is the presence of active and retired military personnel. I remember the words of a Salvadoran guerrilla leader who told me that the day an active-duty soldier sat down at the negotiating table, they were certain that the negotiation would reach an agreement. Not in vain in the dialogues in Havana many Aspects of the end of the conflict, of the laying down of arms, were discussed between FARC guerrilla leaders and the military. That made communication easier.
Q. He has known Otty Patino, the government’s chief negotiator, for a long time. How would he describe it?
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R. Since 1984. Otty is a calm, calm, very analytical person who understands the political moment. Petro was right in placing a man who has a great breadth of thought, which he also demonstrated in the National Constituent Assembly. He is absolutely respectful of the ideas of others. I see that Pablo Beltran is a person who has similar characteristics.
Q. He also meets Senator Maria Jose Pizarro, the daughter of Carlos Pizarro, the last commander of the M-19. What can she bring to the table?
R. Since I was a child. She is a woman who has had a meteoric political development. Maria Jose became a politician working on the memory of her father. She has shown great capabilities, leadership. I think she contributes a woman’s look, which is so important at the tables, where they are usually not presents. Also a look at historical memory.
Q. Does the Cuban revolution explain the rise of the ELN?
R. Somehow, yes. There, in the midst of a very complex situation in 1962, such as the missile crisis, a group of students formed and decided to form an organization. That allowed them to have a very strong relationship with the Cuban revolution, with its leadership.
Q. Is Cuba now a reliable partner for peace?
R. Yes, Fidel Castro alive practically oriented its leadership to make the necessary efforts to find peace in Colombia. Cuba, at one point, renounced with absolute clarity to continue encouraging political-military guerrilla efforts in Latin America, and particularly in Colombia. The doors of the Cuban revolution have been open and they are willing to put their territory and their infrastructure to carry out processes of dialogue and negotiations.
Q. Is this the end of the guerrilla cycle in Latin America? Is the ELN the last straw?
R. Yes. In Latin America since 1959 there was a rise of guerrillas, I have counted some 420 groups in 23 countries, of different intensities, that sought to take power. Some were defeated, others gave up, others negotiated. A few small organizations remain of all this, some in Mexico, in Paraguay, some Mapuche groups between Argentina and Chile that resort to attacks and armed activities. That’s all that’s left at that point, and the ELN.
Q. Why has Colombia been the country where the guerrillas have lasted the longest?
R. There are some conditions of a political order, which produced the great exclusion of the National Front for many years, the electoral fraud of 1970, which encouraged the formation of the M-19. On the other hand, certain geopolitical conditions and the location of Colombia in a corner of South America that allows very easy communication for the entry and exit of people and weapons.
Q. What were the characteristics and differences of the ELN, the FARC and the M-19?
R. The FARC was a characteristically Marxist-Leninist organization, which had a project to build an army, and to seize power with that army. The ELN, a Marxist organization with the ingredient of people linked to liberation theology. the ELN it also had a combination of the rural and the urban, with students and intellectuals, while the FARC was a profoundly peasant organization. And the M-19 emerged at another time, in 1974, in a more urbanized country. Some studies consider it a second generation guerrilla, which initially focuses its efforts on the cities, with nationalist, Bolivarian conceptions.
Q. Is the 1991 Constitution basically a peace agreement?
R. It is a partial peace agreement, as peace agreements were at that time. The National Constituent Assembly lacked the presence of the groups that were not there: the FARC, the ELN and a space from the EPL.
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