We publish here several extracts of the interview Carlos Salgado R. and José Fernando Millán C., of the free daily ADN Colombia, made with Timochenko.
How is your health?
Good, I’m doing well. I am sentenced to do exercise every day but it’s a good sentence, I believe, in every sense. Because it doesn’t simply help from the physical point of view but also from the psychological one. Getting up in the morning, doing thirty, forty minutes exercise, and then again in the afternoon find the time to do some more.
Who have you met after the signature of the Final Peace Agreement?
I haven’t met many people, to be honest. At least, I haven’t met all those who I would have liked to meet. A relative of mine came to Havana: he was five or six when I joined the guerrilla. Now he is a surgeon, and a cardiologist. He was the first to give me news about my village. He had brought a video he had recorded to show me the village. Another very emotional meeting was the one with my sister and two nephews, who are the family I have left. Over 40 years without seeing them. I met them in my trip to La Tebaida, a very quick trip as the foundational congress of our party was on at the time.
Talking about politics. How are you preparing to the Presidential electoral campaign?
At the beginning I was very worried, because it was a party’s task. As I repeated on several occasions, no matter how difficult or complicated a mission in the guerrilla, I never said no.
Now, in this situation, I know it’s a collective task. We have to work intensely and we are doing that. We have to build a project that will appeal to the majority of Colombian people, that will make them chose our candidate. I believe we are doing a good job. We are collecting people’s opinions. I think this is the right way to make project, Colombian style, with the ideas brought forward by Colombian people.
Beside political implications, what do you feel, as a human being, when you are told the people of the country hate you?
If I had the certainty that this was the case, I would have not agreed to be the party’s candidate. This argument had been already used during the so called secret phase of the negotiations, when the government representatives would say: “Look - and they said that to make us agree to what they were proposing - President Santos is gambling all his political credibility here. When this would become public, the whole world will fall on top of him, because the thing is, nobody loves you among Colombian people”.
Facts proved that was a lie. When the peace process became public, how were people looking at us? With joy, hope, support, and this is what I feel when ordinary people said to me: “Timo, don’t give up, Timo go on”. What do I feel? There is no hate. Of course, there is a very biased sector in the society. But this is part of the confrontation. Of the methods used: showing the adversary as a monster to justify its destruction. To justify this intense war against us. But the time will come, when we could tell the whole truth. This is why so many people are afraid of the truth commission.
In what will the FARC differ from other parties?
We have to develop political action completely different than how the rest are doing politics. Leaving aside clientelism as a way of making politics. We have to stop looking for the support of people by offering them personal or little group benefits. We have to give ourself a common target and being at the forefront of the efforts to reaching it. We have to be the vanguard of the Colombian people in the task of building this new Colombia we so much dream of.
How do you think to bring about the renewal you talk about, when so many powerful forces are trying to delegitimise this process, presenting your political project as a way into a Venezuela-style crisis?
Through dialogue. We have to begin a political campaign focusing on being close to people and listen to them. And when I say we have to be the vanguard, I mean that we will be part of a group of social sectors and all those who would want to accompany us. We met many social sectors, groups, organisations with whom we coincide on many things, and we have to listen to them in order to put together a common working plan. We are clear on this: we won’t solve problems and issues with a magic stick!