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"Marquetalia Republic" was a term used to unofficially refer to one of the enclaves in rural Colombia which Communist peasant guerrillas held during the aftermath of "La Violencia" (aprox. 1948 to 1958). Congressmen of the Colombian Conservative Party had considered that those enclaves, including Marquetalia, were "independent republics", which needed to be brought in line with the rest of the country through military force. This area was eventually overrun by the Colombian army (during what was termed "Operation Marquetalia") in May 1964.

Eventually some of the Communist survivors reunited elsewhere and later became part of the "Bloque Sur" (Southern Bloc) guerrilla group in 1964, a precursor to the official foundation of the FARC in 1966.

Contents

Historical Background

La Violencia

La Violencia
Bogotazo.jpg
Prelude
Murder of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán
El Bogotazo
Political Parties
Liberal Party
Conservative Party
Colombian Communist Party
Presidents of Colombia
Mariano Ospina Pérez
Laureano Gómez
Gustavo Rojas Pinilla

The assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948 triggered large riots in Bogotá and smaller scale uprisings throughout the country. This would mark the beginning of "La Violencia", a period of intense bipartisan conflict that would cost an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 Colombian lives over the next decade.

Several members of the Colombian Liberal Party and of the Colombian Communist Party had previously organized self-defense groups and guerrilla units during "La Violencia" that did not demobilize during the amnesty declared by General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla after he took power in 1953.

When Rojas was removed from power in 1958, civilian rule was restored after moderate Conservatives and Liberals, with the support of dissident sectors of the military, agreed to unite under a bipartisan coalition known as the National Front (with included a system of presidential alternation and powersharing both in cabinets and public offices).

From the point of view of members the FARC and the Colombian Communist Party, the Liberal and Conservative elites, though they had instigated the violence, soon grew to fear the consequences of it, and thus formed a loose alliance to preserve their shared desire for political hegemony from possible revolutionary challenges.

Meanwhile, a small number of armed groups formed by Liberals and Communists had successfully established a certain degree of self-government in remote regions of the country, one of which eventually became known as the "republic" of Marquetalia by outside observers. For the most part their activities were limited to self-defense after the end of "La Violencia", though some extortions of local landowners and short skirmishes with official forces occurred from time to time.

The government initially ignored the growing influence of Communists in such enclaves until 1964 when, under pressure by members of the Colombian Conservative Party in Congress who considered such autonomous "republics" as a de facto threat, the Colombian Army was ordered to attack the communist controlled "republic". In addition to the military offensive, the creation of civic action programs in the area of operations were also considered as necessary by some politicians and also members of the Colombian Army, but initial efforts to implement such programs were not followed upon in the long run.

Following the attack, the guerrillas dispersed to other nearby enclaves, only to later reorganize as the "Southern Bloc" ("Bloque Sur") in 1964, officially renamed "Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia" (FARC) in 1966, which became the official military arm of the Communist Party.

One of the Communist leaders of the enclave, known as Jacobo Arenas, later wrote a book called "Diario de la resistencia de Marquetalia" ("Marquetalia Diary"). The book includes a chronicle of the events of the fight between the guerrilla fighters and the soldiers of the Colombian army brigade.

Plan LASO

Overview

The Plan LASO (Latin American Security Operation) was a wide 1960s U.S. initiative against real and potential leftist rebels in Latin America, including Colombia. The plan was designed with the intention of preemptively preventing and countering the spread of communism after the Cuban Revolution. In the case of Colombia, the particular objective of Plan LASO was to destroy the Communist military and social infrastructure in Marquetalia and surrounding areas. After the plan was implemented in Colombia, most of the rebels scattered and managed to survive, later reuniting and eventually giving birth to the FARC, which allegedly has become one of the worlds most powerful and most capable leftist rebel armies.

Early Intelligence Gathering

It is believed by the FARC and the Colombian Communist Party that in 1959 a special team of CIA agents secretly infiltrated the region surrounding Marquetalia. The team included military intelligence, media experts, social and psychological specialists, as well as economical and political scientists. The team would take some three years to submit its report to relevant authorities such as the CIA, the Pentagon, the White House and also Colombian military and political authorities.

With the support of CIA and U.S. Southern Command personnel, military and socioeconomic objectives formed part of the resulting Plan LASO, with a greater emphasis placed on the implementation of the former.

"Operation Marquetalia"

The term "Operation Marquetalia" refers to the final phase of Plan LASO, which was to overrun the so called "Marquetalia Republic" through military force, in order to destroy the social and military infrastructure built-up under the leadership of Jacobo Arenas, allegedly also including the civilian bases of the rebel settlement. It is considered that Arenas tried to create a form of primitive socialist commune in Marquetalia, based on the example of the Paris Commune in 1871, as well as on the 1949 Chinese Revolution. As a result, the U.S. would have wanted to counter these ideas as part of its policies against communism and socialism worldwide.

The FARC believe that around 16,000 Colombian Army troops took place in the operation (other sources speak of 1,600 troops), using bomber aircraft which would have employed napalm bombs, weapons whose use was protested worldwide when the U.S. military used them in Vietnam bombing operations. It is argued that world opinion didn't protest as much against this act because the military operation was internal to Colombia and only limited information was released.

During this large military offensive, the leftists rebels managed to fight back and also to scatter themselves, displaying a degree of fighting capability which would have not been properly appreciated by U.S. and Colombian authorities at the time. Additionally, they would also have underestimated or ignored the rebels capability to influence sectors of local public opinion in their favor. From the point of view of the FARC and its supporters, U.S. and Colombian authorities tried to employ force in Marquetalia because they didn't care about the economic necessities of the people, only thinking about the benefit of United States multinational investors and local capitalists, as part of what could be considered as global imperialism.

The "Marquetalia Diary"

Jacobo Arenas, surviving the invasion of Marquetalia, wrote a book called "Diario de la resistencia de Marquetalia" ("Marquetalia Diary") in 1972. The book includes a chronicle of the events of the fight between the guerrilla fighters and the soldiers of the Colombian army brigade.

In the diary, Arenas describes the geographical location and the natural beauty of the Marquetalia area with many details, giving the reader a detailed mental picture of the area, made up of 800 square km in the Andean mountains, at around 6000 feet of height above sea level, with the presence of monsoon rainfall. In particular, one of the snowed mountains in the department of Huila is more than 12,000 feet high.

The diary puts the guerrilla and peasant struggle in Marquetalia in context, happening six years after the triumph of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, which filled the minds of many worldwide with revolutionary fervor. While the events in Cuba absorbed most of the world's and the region's attention, information about the events in Marquetalia and their aftermath later began to be of great interest throughout these sectors in all of Latin America.

The diary highlights some of the inner workings of Marquetalia as a sort of improvised "commune" or small socialist society, where not only the peasant fighters and Communist Party ideologues were present, but also several members of their families and some of their friends, who worked together as a community for both common socioeconomic and military/defense purposes.

Arenas describes the military operations against Marquetalia in May 1964 as part of an United States initiative called Plan LASO (Latin American Security Operation), allegedly meant to suppress dissent and possible communist rebellions that might spring up in the entire region. In Colombia, Arenas claims that the offensive against Marquetalia was designed with assistance from the Pentagon and believes that some 16,000 Colombian Army troops, with the support of military helicopters and airplanes, took part in the operation (term used in the book is: 16,000 "Bloodhounds" commanded by the Pentagon "Hawks"). The number of peasant communist fighters was thought to be much smaller, but allegedly a previous CIA intelligence report argued that it could reach as many as 2000, though other estimates and claims have since differed.

Arenas narrates how since the application of the Plan LASO in Colombia, the scattered fighters soon gathered to give birth to the FARC, after the former fighters of Marquetalia hid in jungles and remote villages throughout Colombia, organizing to fight a long-lasting war by using guerilla warfare techniques in order to someday seize power.

Aftermath: the Birth of FARC

After the implementation of Plan LASO's military phase in May 1964, the survivors of the Marquetalia "commune" held a meeting on May 27, with key leaders such Manuel Marulanda and Jacobo Arenas. The agenda of this meeting was to create a more formal insurgent organization with the main goal of seizing power from capitalists and directing Colombian society according to the lines developed from anthropology-based Marxist theories. At the end of the meeting, clearly defined ideas were in place, which continued to be used for the later birth of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC in 1966. According to the leftist insurgents, their plan was to spread all over the Colombia into areas such as remote villages and jungles for security reasons, while others travelled throughout Latin America to gain experiences as part of their armed struggle.

The FARC's Seventh Guerrilla Conference was held in 1982 under the guidance of Jacobo Arenas and Manuel Marulanda. The Conference added the term "People's Army" to the group, resulting in the new name being FARC-EP. The Seventh Guerrilla Conference was a turning point in the FARC's struggle, as it provided them the opportunity to finetune their policies and plans in order for them to build their desired socialist state in the future. The FARC's Conferences, as seen by Marxists and Leninists, can be interpreted as similar to the International conferences previously held in Europe with the participation Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky.

Today the FARC-EP is considered as one of the strongest and most capable leftist rebel armies in the world and in the Western hemisphere, standing steadily amidst considerable attempts to defeat it. Some independent analysts have opined that the United States, continuing to prosecute some of the policies which originally led to Plan LASO, is wasting resources and human lives through the implementation and support of Plan Colombia and Plan Patriota respectively. The CIA, the Pentagon and U.S. Southern Command would allegedly have millions of pages of intelligence reports, while spending billions of U.S. dollars gathering this paperwork and sending military aid to Colombia for the last four decades. According to these analysts, the United States will continue to do this while the FARC maintains it objective of potentially seizing power, as it finds this possibility unacceptable to its interests.

See also

References

  • Diario de la resistencia de Marquetalia, Jacobo Arenas, Ediciones Abejón Mono, 1972 (Espanol)
  • Blood and Fire: La Violencia in Antioquia, Colombia, 1946-1953, Mary Roldan, Duke University Press, ISBN 0-8223-2918-2, 2002

External links

Further reading








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