This interview was conducted by Javier Toro.
Vicente Torrijos is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Rosario and a member of the Historical Commission on the Conflict and its Victims (CHCV).
This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy.
In my opinion, the guerrillas appeared in Colombia in the 1960s, specifically around 1964, the year in which both the FARC and the ELN were consolidated with the stimulus of the Cuban revolution. What we had had before that were armed peasant self-defence movements. In the middle of the last century, the peasants felt persecuted or attacked by the generalised violence due to the systematic confrontation between liberals and conservatives after the assassination of the political leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitán in 48. The Cuban revolution, after coming to power, stimulated these insurgent movements, and these, logically, began to strengthen themselves, began to acquire certain capacities and to expand territorially. Abusing the so-called right to rebellion, these movements, instead of forging a war of national liberation, dedicated themselves to kidnapping, cattle rustling, coercion, in short, terrorism.
In terms of motives, initially, as I have already mentioned, it was a self-defence movement that sought to protect small communities from the official conservative offensive to quell pockets of resistance that remained after the violent events of 9 April 1948. Initially, the central objective was to defend the in-group. Later, as power vacuums were discovered in Colombia’s vast geography, the objective became to become the de facto authority in certain regions. To achieve this goal, they acquired weaponry, thanks to the support of Cuba and other international contacts, and trained in the Soviet Union, the Maghreb and, of course, Cuba itself. They also made use of a powerful propaganda narrative that drew on all the persuasive and rhetorical charms of communism and Marxism-Leninism and even Maoism. They used drug trafficking and other illegal economies to become economically self-sufficient and consolidate “independent republics” or sanctuaries where parallel powers were erected. Initially, the ultimate aim was to consolidate these territorial pockets of power. Later, they also came to believe that it was possible to achieve central power. It can be said that in these pretensions, they never had any delusions: they were guerrillas who were very calm in measuring their own scope. However, although they managed to have important operational units near the Colombian capital, Bogotá, they never really came close to seizing power. They did manage to besiege and shock the country, especially after adopting terrorist methods, but they never really came close to achieving central power.
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