FARC-EP Commander, Raúl Reyes, targeted by the Colombian and US governments was killed in an illegal cross-border missile attack of his encampment in Ecuador 8 years ago, March 1, 2008
Introduction: Eight years ago this month, Alvaro Uribe, then president of Colombia with his Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, now president of Colombia, executed an illegal, cross-border bombing of a FARC-EP* encampment in Ecuador, killing FARC Commander Raúl Reyes and many other FARC revolutionaries who were serving in Reyes unit. One civilian Ecuadorean and 4 Mexican university students who were conducting field research for their graduate theses were among those killed.** The two young revolutionary women who escaped granted us this exclusive interview.
Salient facts: The attack was conducted in close partnership with the United States, part of a larger covert action to help Bogota eliminate FARC leaders. It included real-time intelligence provided by the US to track the guerillas and a US$30,000 GPS guidance system for guiding smart bombs to their target, equipment previously only provided to Israel. Commander Raúl Reyes, birth name Luis Edgar Devin, was a revolutionary from his youth, a Colombian trade unionist who joined the FARC when he took his revolutionary name, Raúl Reyes. He was 60 years old when he was killed and the Colombian government broadcast the attack as a great victory in a civil war that continues for almost 60 years. They placed a $2.7 million bounty on Raúl Reyes’ head. A paid infiltrator placed a tracking chip in one of his books, directing the attack to his location in Ecuador. In the days that followed, the imperialist media did their best to justify the attack and reported that everyone was killed by the bombs. But we personally have seen photographic evidence and heard eye witness testimony that that the Colombian Army entered the camp after the bombing and executed those who survived the bombing, some shot in the back. Raúl Reyes was killed outright by the missiles and the Colombians removed his body to deny FARC the opportunity to give him an honorable burial.
The Interview: Two heroic young women, still active members of the FARC, were in Raúl Reyes’ camp that deadly night in Ecuador and miraculously escaped the attack albeit with grave, disabling injuries. They now live under pseudonyms “Susana and Diana” under protection of the Sandanista government in Nicaragua. Earlier this month, we arranged a visit to Nicaragua through our friends there for a nurse with whom I do grassroots work here in Venezuela. While she was staying in the home of Susana and Diana, she introduced me to them via telephone and presented my written interview questions to which they responded in writing. We have since spoken at length on the telephone various times, clarifying and augmenting the interview which follows.
Diana (L) and Susana with a banner photo
of their commander and comrade, Raúl Reyes
Susana and Diana: These two young women like so many Colombians, were born into extreme poverty, both suffering from hunger and illiteracy, child workers, denied an education throughout their childhood. In their early teens they became members of the FARC-EP who provided them with basic necessities of life, education and dignity. They were also trained in the use of arms, becoming FARC guerilleras***, fighting for peace and social justice in Colombia. After they escaped from the attack on Reyes’ camp, they received emergency medical care in Ecuador and Nicaragua, including multiple operations over the last eight years. Diana survived with a compound fracture of the ulna in her lower arm and during her escape she tore the exposed bone from her arm throwing it aside because “it was in the way.” The women managed to run from the destroyed camp and hide from the incoming Colombian soldiers in the jungle until the Ecuadorean military found and rescued them. We include a video of that rescue below this article. The bombing completely destroyed Diana’s knee for which she’s received 8 surgeries and hopes for a successful knee replacement in the future. President Daniel Ortega gave the two young women asylum in Nicaragua where they live at an undisclosed location, continuing their studies and their work for the people of Colombia as dedicated guerrilleras in the FARC. Susana a few years older than Diana, is now a university graduate and Diana, an artist, has completed her second year in university in Nicaragua and continues her studies there. They provided more details about their lives in our interview.
The Future of FARC and Colombia: Susana and Diana also provide us with their views of the current peace process between Colombian President Santos and the FARC Leadership in Havana which reportedly is nearing it’s conclusion.
*FARC-EP: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, The People’s Army)
**One of the four Mexican students reportedly escaped the attack.
*** For people unfamiliar with the terms, throughout the interview, “guerrilleras and guerrilleros” distinguish between male and female guerillas.
Les Blough: Thank you for giving us this interview for publication on Axis of Logic. I understand that you were once members of FARC in Colombia. When we publish this interview, can we use your real names or should we use pseudonyms? Will it be safe to identify the country where we conducted this interview or would that compromise your safety?
Susana & Diana: Thank you so much. The honor is ours. What worthy and prestigious information you so efficiently provide on your website! We are pleased to have this opportunity to talk and tell you a little about our revolutionary cause and our experience as active members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia FARC-EP. Among the fallen, we are Guerrilleras who survived the bombing of our camp in Ecuador which borders Colombia.
In this fight, we use our pseudonyms, Susana & Diana and this interview that we offer you is combined from us both. As for our location, we don’t have any problem for you to disclose that we live in Nicaragua. This is because it is no secret, that Nicaragua, land of lakes and volcanoes, defended by the General de Hombres Libres (General of Free Men), Augusto Cesar Sandino Calderon and his brave Revolutionary Army of Guerrilleros and Guerrilleras, the Sandinistas. They opened their doors and we were warmly welcomed in their land of dignity and great hospitality as Revolutionaries and foremost as human beings. We are extremely grateful for this gesture of solidarity with the guerrilla struggle of the FARC-EP.
LB: I’ll start by asking how you became involved with the FARC?
Susana & Diana: We began working with the FARC when we were still teenagers but with revolutionary consciousness, because from childhood we lived in different circumstances in a country plagued by violence, unemployment, hunger, poverty and displaced persons.
LB: How old were you and where were you living at that time?
Susana & Diana: This question is related to the first. We were adolescents. And as to our location at the time, we lived in a department of Colombia, which for security reasons, we omit, because there are paramilitaries there, fighters living there, watching the families of Guerrilleras and Guerrilleros to cause our families harm and all those who worthily defend the interests of the people.
LB: Who introduced you to FARC?
Susana & Diana: We arrived amidst conditions facing the country, without opportunity to decent and quality education, and a lack of opportunities for young people who want to excel and move forward with their families.
LB: Were there members of FARC serving people in your community?
Susana & Diana: It was like that and this is our priority, service to our dignified people. We fight for, defend their interests. Our activities go hand in hand with the heart and soul, focused on our people.
LB:Were you ever in danger or were you ever injured when you were living and working with FARC?
Susana & Diana: The danger always exists everywhere and more when it comes to the defense of revolutionary ideals, because there are those who who stigmatize a person for thinking differently, for building a New Colombia with True Social Justice.
LB: What training or education did you receive from FARC and how did you serve them?
Susana & Diana: Everything. The Farc-Ep is a university of life where they teach you everything, beginning with learning to read and write because our struggle is political, economic, social and cultural in the country. And we put everything we learn to the service of the people, organizing and guiding them in the struggle to claim their rights as human beings.
LB: Did you work in emergency medical care?
Susana & Diana: Yes, in some cases. For as we discussed earlier in the organization of the Farc, they perform courses in nursing, dentistry, medicine, etc, and in the heat of battle one would play different roles, learning a bit of everything. Because we are Comprehensive Guerrilleras y Guerrilleros, comprehensive, integrating and combining all forms of struggle.
LB: Did you carry weapons and fight in battles?
Susana & Diana: Since the FARC was founded on May 27, 1964, from that moment, they took up arms, because the government shut down all peaceful means for us to claim our rights, and the only possible way was to lift up arms.
So to answer your question, since we entered, they gave us a basic course and from that moment, you get your service weapon and are taught how to handle and take care of it. This is not because we like weapons. Under the same conditions that push you to use them, in the place of rifles we prefer pens, writing, to resolve basic conditions in a country that has lived for decades in bloody violence. And Discrimination of all kinds.
LB: Did you work in administration or some other supporting roles?
Susana & Diana: Yes, we worked in a variety of different support units.
LB: How did you come to know Commander Raul Reyes?
Susana & Diana: Being in the FARC, they move you from from one place to another, and that’s how we came into the unit of Comrade Raul Reyes.
LB: What can you tell us about him?
Susana & Diana: He is a comrade with a great sense of Revolutionary Love, who gave his most precious life in defense of the interests of the poor, the needy. He is and will remain an exemplary revolutionary leader, who each passing day, led his unit and performed his activities efficiently with passion, discipline and great wisdom. In defense of Revolutionary principles and ideals. He is a great father of the country. A Great Example to Follow. In many Generations to Come!
LB: What kind of person was he and what did you think of his leadership?
Susana & Diana: A very reasonable person, objective, consistent with his words and deeds. An excellent Human Being. Sensitive and with good sense of humor. A Great Leader.
LB: Were you with Commander Reyes when Colombia attacked his camp in Ecuador on March 1, 2008?
Susana & Diana: Yes. We were in the unit, commanded by Comrade Raul Reyes.
LB: What can you tell us about the attack? How many people survived and how many of them lost their lives?
Susana & Diana: On the attack, it was a Violation of International Humanitarian Law, because many of our comrades were massacred, and were not spared their lives; they were killed with shots in the back; there is evidence of this. Also, they violated sovereignty of the Ecuadorian people because the Colombian army invaded Ecuadorian territory.
Similarly in the bombing, 4 Mexican students were in the camp, hoping to perform their theses on our revolutionary struggle and culture within FARC-EP for their university degrees. They were killed.
And we, being the revolutionary army that we are, and a State within the State, we respect the prisoners of the army when they are prisoners of war, we respect their lives and rights, which they do not.
LB: Were you injured in the attack and how did you escape? Where did you go immediately after the attack and how long did it take for you to find help?
Susana & Diana: Yes we were seriously injured. And we escaped death by a miracle. We found the Ecuadorian army, we waited for about about 48 hours, to be medically evacuated and received medical treatment in Ecuadorian territory, a country to whom we again reiterate our sincere thanks and congratulations for the care and assistance with dignity that we received from President Rafael Correa, and all his worthy Ecuadorian people.
LB: How did the attack and the death of Commander Reyes affect you personally?
Susana & Diana: The death of a comrade, either man or woman always hurts us, because we are one family, with the same ideals, and Comrade Raul, is a Father in our lives. And the best way for us to remember him and give Homage is to continue his legacy, standing as examples in the Revolutionary Struggle!
LB: A number of FARC leaders have been killed over the last 8 years. They say Marulanda died of a heart attack in 2008; then in 2011 the Colombian military killed Alfonso Cano who took Marulanda’s place; then they killed Roman Ruiz and they even killed Jairo Martinez who was a leader participating in the current peace process in Havana. This has been a US and Israeli method of war known as “decapitation,” murdering the leaders of adversarial political groups. How do you think the murder of Commander Reyes has affected FARC as an organization?
Susana & Diana: In our organization FARC-EP, We are one voice, there is a unified and cohesive command, when perhaps not with some of our comrades, others are unanimous and in coordination with the majority, leaders are elected and ranked. “Comrade, go forward!”
LB: What is your view of the “peace process” in Havana between FARC and the Santos regime?
Susana & Diana: Our opinion is that it has been a complex process, much work has been developed by our comrades, men and women, who represent us with dignity at la Mesa de Diálogos en la Habana Cuba. (The Table of Dialogue) in Havana Cuba but with certainty that we are on track, which will soon shine the beacon of Peace with True Social Justice in the Colombian Country!
There are two forces sitting at the table, and both should have a voice and vote, both parties, not unilateral, but bilateral, including the Colombian people, because the dialogue should be multilateral, where the great protagonist is the people. Represented by all social sectors, indigenous communities, students, the sexual gender community, teachers, people of all colors, housewives, intellectuals, workers, farmers, communities, because they are those who have suffered the consequences of the war imposed by the Colombian State.
LB: What motivates President Juan Manuel Santos to make peace with the FARC?
Susana & Diana: Well, with all due respect, it is difficult to know the motives of President Santos, because the Colombian oligarchy has a background of deceiving the people today saying one thing, then surprising us the next. One example is the assassination of leaders of the UP (Unión Patriótica) etc. and because of that situation, mistrust, is always present and Señor President Santos has been unpredictable. But we are confident that the reason he was pushed [into the Peace Process] was the suffering of the people, their awareness, their lives and depth of heart. We trust and hope that he will comply with the peace agreements and their implementation. That in the not too distant future, he will not disappoint the people, nor our Organization of the Farc-Ep.
LB: Do the leaders believe it is possible to negotiate with President Santos and that peace is possible? Why?
Susana & Diana: Well so far, it seems possible, But keep in mind that peace is not only absence of war, or guns. The peace we and the Worthy and Valiant Colombian people want, must be a real peace, one that will solve the social problems of the people, Health, Housing, Education, etc. But if there is none of that, then it is very difficult to talk about peace, because the situation in the country is a lack of opportunities accompanied by threats, dismissal of workers, assassinations of union leaders, peasants, students, displaced from their lands, etc. Forcing the Farc to take up arms. We are victims of the Colombian state and he [Santos] has been solely responsible. For this there has been a Social and Armed Conflict for more than 50 years in Colombia.
LB: Do you think that Timochenko (Rodrigo Londoño, Chief FARC Negotiator in Havana) and his team are making too many concessions to the Colombian government and what are they gaining?
Susana & Diana: The chief comrades with our top commander, Timoshenko, are trying to do everything on the theme of Peace, with true social justice for our Dignified Colombian People and that longed-for peace is a something that is real, a solution to the social problems. Suffering Colombians believe that we are delivering nothng to the Colombian government except our total commitment to the revolutionary cause and love for our brave people. Social and Armed, we are the first to want an end to the internal social conflict, into which the State forced us over 50 years ago.
LB: What your estimate of the number of active military in the FARC today? What is your estimate of the total number of FARC membership?
Susana & Diana: We can not say exactly the number of members who have proudly integrated into the Farc-Ep, but we can assure you that there are thousands of sons and daughters of Manuel Marulanda, Jacobo Arenas, Martin Villa, Jorge Briceno, Alfonzo Cano, Raul Reyes. (Among others) who make up the University Digna Fariana.
LB: Do you think FARC has gained power and respect among Colombians since 2008 or has it been diminished by military attacks and loss of morale.
Susana & Diana: From the time the Colombian government forced us, our Organization, to take up arms in 1964, they have left us no other choice to claim our rights as human beings but by force of arms. The mere fact that you rebel against the State that threatens you, moving you and your families from your lands or disappearing you – upon all of that the Farc-Ep was founded.
We have the respect and admiration of the people of Colombia and internationally. Our morale is intact, so is the Fight, some being left on the road and others continuing. That has not touched our different trenches of the fight, not prison, exile, etc. There are different forms of struggle that strengthen us in the fire of our ideals, pure and noble!
LB: Are you still in contact with members of FARC and are you still committed to their mission in Colombia?
Susana & Diana: Yes of course, we keep in touch with our organization. And we are committed to the fight. Everything we do, we do with true revolutionary love, thinking on our ideals, our tender and humble people, we are young Guerrilleras committed to the Farc-Ep and With Colombia!
LB: No organization is perfect and all have weaknesses. What do you think about FARC’s strengths and weaknesses?
Susana & Diana: As human beings, nobody is perfect, just as you mentioned, nor any organization. But every day you become more aware and strengthened in the revolutionary struggle which is the battle of personal empowerment in each individual. We can tell you that our organization has statutory regulations that must be met, and when there have been failures, our comrades apply the statutory rules to overcome and correct the faults some of which are severe, others mild, etc.
And one of the greatest strengths of the Farc-Ep is for us to keep on fighting and giving our lives today without expecting anything in return except for the satisfaction and joy of the common welfare of the Precious Colombian People, having a Unified Command, a unified political strength and Unity is the Power, and Power is the Force. These have been our greatest virtue and strength.
LB: When you are given asylum in Nicaragua and why?
Susana & Diana: We are given asylum on May 11, 2008. Because we were the survivors of the bombing and attacked by the Colombian army in Ecuadorian territory. And because we are pursued by policies of the Colombian government, then by former president Alvaro Uribe and his Defense minister who today is the current president Juan Manuel Santos.
LB: Do you feel safe where you are now living and does the Colombian government know where you are?
Susana & Diana: Of course the Colombian government knows where we are because our asylum was public, not secret, as announced in a public ceremony by Commandante Daniel Ortega.
As for safety, our only mission is to defend our worthy cause, to be Guerrilleras which has its dangers on every side because the enemy seeks to undermine and sabotage our struggle.
Danger exists everywhere. Look, they have killed many leaders in different countries. We have a recent case the death of a worthy daughter of the Honduran people, Berta Caceres (ed. note: Berta was one of their personal friends), merely because she defended her people. There are also cases where there is no political maturity, when some people are sold and delivered to the revolutionaries as infiltrators. So there are dangers everywhere. But good! We are in high spirits! Our heads held high, and oriented and waiting for the next step forward for our organization Farc-Ep.
LB: Where do your families live and are you in contact with them. Can you tell us about them?
Susana & Diana: Our families. We do not know where they are, since we entered the FARC, we lost contact with our families.
LB: Do you worry about their safety? Please tell us why you think they are in danger or why you think they are safe.
Susana & Diana: Of course we care about their safety and the safety of every human being, whom we consider and value equally. As everything we discussed with you before, the enemy working below is very treacherous and you never know where they may surprise you.
But being revolutionaries, we move forward and where they surprise you, you welcome death. Each and every human being at some point in our lives pass this way. None of us escape, but we must take care and preserve our lives while we can. To keep planting seeds of social welfare and joy where there is injustice.
LB: Do you want to live in Colombia and do you think it will be safe for you to return there if the Peace Process in Havana is successful?
Susana & Diana: Of course we want and yearn not only to live in Colombia, but continue our struggle to serve the people, continue working with the Revolutionary army of the FARC-EP. And the return is not dependent on us, as we told you, we belong to an organization, and we have guidelines and command that we must obey, they will say where we are needed for the cause and there we will be working for the Common Welfare and for a New Colombia.
LB: You can tell us what daily life is like now and how you contribute to the revolution?
Susana & Diana: Our daily life consists of studying, discipline, and preparing professionally, politically, culturally etc. But always every activity we do, is engrossed with thinking of our revolutionary struggle. Then from there, there is a grain of corn that we bring and contribute to the Farc-Ep.
LB: What is your opinion of the government of Santos in Colombia? How is it different from that of former President Alvaro Uribe?
Susana & Diana: Our view is that both represent the same interests of the oligarchy, regarding Capitalism. In terms of differences between the two, perhaps there are personality differences with their style. Uribe is more explosive, one who sometimes does not measure his words and is a little impulsive. Santos is a little more Diplomatic and difficult to predict so in the colloquial we might say his mind is that of the Carrot & Stick so you do not know how he may surprise you. And Uribe expresses his feelings without hiding their language. That is our perception of both.
LB: Can you describe conditions for the majority of Colombians, socially, politically?
Susana & Diana: They are conditions of poverty, malnutrition and displacement. One case is Guajira, in the northeast of the country, where more than 64.3% live in extreme poverty, a department plagued by violence, unemployment, insecurity, children dying of malnutrition and diseases. And so is the national picture, where only a minority enjoy Good Health. Education. Housing etc and for those reasons the guerillas, FARC, ELN (among others) exist due to the living conditions imposed by the government on every Colombian.
LB: Do you think the revolutionary social movement among the people is as strong today as it was 10 years ago?
Susana & Diana: Yes, it is strong. Here we have the example of the guerrilla movement in Colombia, a social and internal conflict that has taken place for more than half a century. It is a great example of resistance. The times are changing, obviously different experiences, and one is enriched with other revolutionary experiences, each according to their time.
Terrain and all conditions are mentally different but with the same goal, the defense and interests of our people. And while in a country, that does not solve the the needs its people, there will be protests and revolutionary outbreaks because it is the only way to true democracy where there is a demand for Social Justice, Public Safety. Quality education. etc. Every nation is met with this if it is to avoid armed revolutionary groups who claim their rights.
LB: What are your plans for the future. Are you attending university? What kind of work do you want to do and what career path will you follow?
Susana: Well, as to the University, in my case I finished my degrees in International Relations and International Trade and I continue my studies to specialize in my career and make it available to our organization and all our Colombian People, focused on different social causes, whether national or international.
Diana: And in my case, I continue my studies in Graphic Design in which I have now completed two years of the program. Just as in everything we are learning, it is all in favor of the Colombian People and Farc-Ep.
LB: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about Colombia, the FARC and your lives?
Susana & Diana: Tell our Worthy Colombian people, especially the young people, and to all the social movements of the world, Guerrillera and Guerrillero fighters in Colombia and in all the world: It’s not important where the trench of struggle is or from which trench you are contributing to the cause, each and everyone of us are equal, men and women. We encourage our comrades to continue the struggle. And soon the beacon of freedom and true peace will shine with Social Justice in Colombia.
Tell them that we need the unanimous National Clamor and all the support of the International Community for Peace in Colombia, Worthy, Fair, Social. Ensuring public safety where the final agreements of the peace talks, taking place in Havana Cuba are met. Thank you very much for talking to us.. Hugs.
Thank you for allowing us this opportunity.
Brotherly greetings Revolutionaries!
Soft-spoken Diana gifted us with two of her paintings. This one is a 3 dimensional work, depicting the extraction of gold by the oligarchy from a Colombian mine. This is my amateur photo which doesn’t by any means do a modicum of justice to the detail and vibrant colors, the 3 dimensionality and realism. The gold in the cars and the arch sparkle with real minerals, the path under the rails look like you could walk on it and the entrance to the mine is in graduated shades of gray entering into pitch blackness. I haven’t discussed it with Diana but possibly, her art can be purchased, something that could probably be arranged. I also failed to ask her permission to publish this photo and hope she won’t mind.
Video of the rescue of Susana and Diana by the Ecuadorean Military after their escape from Colombia’s bombing that killed FARC-EP Commander Raúl Reyes on March 1, 2008 (1 hour, 24 minutes)
Susana and Diana’s interview was translated from Spanish to English for Axis of Logic by Les Blough.
Copyright 2016 by AxisofLogic.com
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