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victoria.jpgRSS Victoria Sandino Palmera

Victoria Sandino Palmera is member of the Peace Delegation and she is part of its Gender Subcommission 
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 00:00

FARC-EP women in the eighties: a decade of progress

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Written by Victoria Sandino Palmera; Taken from: mujerfariana.org

Although the eighties are known in Latin America as ?The Lost Decade?, they were not necessarily so for Colombia, where the decade brought some welcome popular victories and -- despite the suffering brought by massacres and acts of political genocide -- this was the decade during which more women than at any time before or since joined the ranks of the FARC-EP.

?They had however become an exemplory benchmark and a source of pride to women and youngsters who discovered how these women had been liberated and now -- on an equal footing with the men -- fought for their rights?

By the late 1970?s many women, donning their olive green uniforms, rope or twine around their waists well armed and kitted, had come into the movement and could be seen marching with their guerilla comrades; backpacks brimming, beautiful and brave, such women were regarded by the public with respect and admiration, almost at times to the point of exotically; they had however become an exemplory benchmark and a source of pride to women and youngsters who discovered how these women had been liberated and now -- on an equal footing with the men -- fought for their rights. The admiration for them was such that many families named new born baby girls after the guerrilla fighters whose names they knew.

It is true to say that many women had joined the armed struggle since its inception, but it was during the 80?s that this became something of a phenomena. This involvement, in addition to representing a response to violence and poverty, was also because it meant a freedom to many and was a recognition of their political existence. Some of the women that had volunteered prior to the 80?s had assumed responsibilities within the movement and stood out because of their skilled expertise in communictions, popular organization, finance, combat intelligence, troop movement and nursing. Eliana, Amparo, Erika, Gladys Martinez and Tania are some of the women of this generation.

?There are many accounts of heroism and dedication, which especially call Gladys Martinez of the 5th Front to mind?

During the talks process in La Uribe, Meta -- and subsequent to the signing of accords and the truce with the government of Belisario Betancur in 1984 women -- such as those who had come through Communist Youth, the Communist Party, and other leftist movements who had greater degrees of academic and political preparation?assumed more responsibility within the guerilla movement. The images of our female comrades were known nationwide, as were their deeds and the manner in which they worked shoulder to shoulder with the men, their histories and combat experiences, the peaceful legal and political struggles that some had engaged in previously and their conscience and revolutionary committment which had inspired their volunteering for the FARC-EP.

This was because Colombia in the 1980?s was defined by a generation of leftist and progressive women and men who were firstly hounded by Turbay's State Security and later lost their lives or survived the political genocide committed with impunity against a fractured Patriotic Union, resulting in women across the country opting to engage in armed insurrection. Lucia, of the National Urban Network directorate, who co-signed the 84 cease fire agreement with Alejandra and the psychologist Julia from the directorate of the National Urban Network ?Finance? department stand out among the many women involved in the urban guerilla campaign.

?In this regard their personal skills set, past experiences, collective strength and potential for personal development became an important and integral part of the movement?

There are many accounts of heroism and dedication, which especially call Gladys Martinez of the 5th Front to mind. She was lifted by the enemy, raped by her captors and then forced to march alongside them. Having managed to escape and living for days on only roots and berries, she sought guerilla units and found safety in the company of her comrades. She had become a comandante of note who jointly oversaw troop movements and organization of the masses in an area comprising Uraba Antioqu?o, Chocoano and Cordoba province. She was assassinated by the paramilitaries Carlos and Fidel Casta?o in 1988 in the Las Tangas Hacienda, C?rdoba, together with the comrades of her command; Pimpinela, Aries and Aguilar.

The truce that held from 28th May 1984 to the 9th of December 1990 (with the exception of certain skirmishes with the army and paramilitaries in different parts of the country) constituted an important space for the guerrillas, not just because it relieved them from active service but because they could also direct their abilities towards various specialities and undertake more advanced military training. Many, as had previously happened in Colombia, who arrived in the nation?s jungle and mountains seeking refuge to save their lives from violence and persecution for their activism on behalf of the Patriotic Union, had experience in social and political positions of leadership or had been, among other things, popularly elected councillors, deputies or mayoresses. In this regard their personal skills set, past experiences, collective strength and potential for personal development became an important and integral part of the movement..

Dilemmas Faced by Guerilla Women

There were however repeated dilemmas that the women had to confront, issues that had been ever present since the outset. The truce brought a certain tranquility in the public order to the camps. Couples became established and as a result sons and daughters were born. Some were sent to be raised by family or friends with parents maintaing constant contact and communication. The care for and education of the boys and girls who remained in the camps became the colective responsibility of the organization. This became increasingly so when the truce was broken and the war began again, which had an impact on the social and family fabric of the guerilla movement.

?A dramatic and similar experience to that shared with thousands of other revolutionary fighting women in Chile and Central America?

The majority of infants had to be sent to relatives (aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers) or kept at a distance and many of the women volunteers would never again know anything about their sons or daughters. A dramatic and similar experience to that shared with thousands of other revolutionary fighting women in Chile and Central America. These comrades faced a difficult choice; to remain in the ranks as fighters who had taken the decision to fight for a transformed homeland or dedicate themselves to child rearing; many opted for the latter. This was always a very complex and painful decision making progress.

When the truce collapsed, most of the women fighters energetically confronted the changed circumstances in a spirit of dignity and sacrifice similar to that of the men involved in ambushes and in the trenches. They took up the gauntled thrown by the Cesar Gaviria government who had pledged to annihalate the FARC-EP ?in less than 6 months?. Many women not only engaged in armed resistence during this stage of the struggle but also in every phase that was to follow. Our brave sisters Sandra, Marllely, Shirley, Viviana, Yira, Carmenza, Rubiela, Yidis, Marcela, Marina, Olga, Lucia, Yancy, Mireya, Otilia, Maritza and so many other dear comrades are survivors from this era. Some from that time, such as Amparo 34, Danis and Shirley Cartagena, Gloria Cepeda, Elicenia, Mallery, Consuelo, Mercedes and Yurani died in combat; others, including Araceli are still detained as political prisoners and others still were released conditionally or relocated because they had been wounded in combat or had other health issues.

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We have also had to confront cases like that of Karina, who in her time was an outstanding comrade in combat, in troop management and in the organization of the masses -- but whose indiscipline unfortunately made her an easy target for the enemy, who used her young daughter to get to her and to shatter her morale. They had inserted an infiltrator who became her partner and convinced her to desert and to betray everything for which she had struggled. There is no regular or guerrilla army, or indeed any group anywhere on earth exempt from such situations. (The ?La Flaca Alejandra? documentary by our Chilean MIR comrade Carmen Castillo gives some insight into such complex experiences that every Latin American revolutionary generation has lived).

?The guerrilla women of the 80?s marked out an important route for all FARC-EP women of yesterday and today?

Even still, in the case of the FARC-EP, a significant number of combatants from the 80?s ? indeed the vast majority of women who joined during that decade ? have resisted every enemy onslaught and holds high rank in Front direction, Front command, unit leadership or within specialist sectors of high strategic value to the army. Today, some of us are in Havana, guerrilla women playing a transcedental role in the struggle for peace and justice for our beloved Colombian homeland.

In addition the innumerable tasks we undertake on behalf of our Delegation we are represented by experienced combatants at the Conversation Table and in both the Gender and Technical Sub-commissions. The guerrilla women of the 80?s marked out an important route for all FARC-EP women of yesterday and today. They are all an example of how women within the Colombian guerrilla forces have drawn with indelible strokes and written in rainbow tinted ink, the history of their armed resistence, the history of the new Colombia; a history from which the women who participated in the armed insurrection will never be erased.

Last modified on Saturday, 19 March 2016 21:35
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