From La Forge
Organ of the Communist Party of the Workers of france
In the morning of June 22, special troops of the Colombian army arrested Francisco Caraballo, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Colombia (M-L) and Commander in Chief of the People's Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación, EPL). Several other people were arrested with him, including his wife and 16 year old son.
This news has made, for the first time, the headlines of the Colombian press, but besides that nothing has been said. It is necessary to say that the Colombian media are submitted to censorship in everything that concerns the guerrilla movement.
Declarations of the Colombian authorities in favor of internal peace have not been lacking. The last president who was elected had made it an axis of his campaign. But the numbers of the "disappeared," of assassinations of political militants, of trade unionists and of militants for human rights by the armed forces and by the paramilitary groups has never been so high. This is why we are particularly worried about the fate in store for Francisco Caraballo and the people arrested with him.
Francisco Caraballo is an official of a political party and of a political-military organization with thirty years of existence. It is neither an accident or an anachronism that the Colombian guerrilla movement is one of the oldest in Latin America. It finds its source in the considerable social disparities, in a blocked political and institutional system, in the violence with which the owners respond to the legitimate demands of the popular strata and of their political and social organization. On several occasions discussions have begun between the authorities and the guerrilla organizations. In August, 1984, a cease-fire agreement was concluded. One of the signatories, Oscar William Calvo, member of the leadership of the Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist) was assassinated on an open street of Bogotá the following year. He had had the opportunity, several months beforehand, to come to France to talk about the situation in his country and about the political proposals of his organization. The Colombian authorities were concerned about the proceeding of the discussion, as witnessed by the massacre at the Palace of Justice in which the principal responsibility rests with the armed forces.
At the request of the guerrilla organizations grouped under the "Simón Bolívar Guerrilla Coordination" new discussions began in 1991 in Caracas and later at Tlaxcala (Mexico). It soon became apparent that the government had no intention of succeeding and that it was seeking nothing more than a pure and simple surrender of the guerrilla forces, without giving the least response to the political and social problems at the origin of this violent protest which is the guerrilla phenomenon. The negotiations therefore failed once again and certain negotiators were arrested. The "state of internal unrest" that was decreed had the aim of transforming the guerrillas from political opponents into "criminals." Militants and leaders of the guerrilla organizations have been captured and imprisoned without sentence and most often without any contact with the outside. Compared to the attitude adopted by the authorities towards the drug traffickers, the difference is both glaring and revealing.
Francisco Caraballo is one of the historic leaders of the guerrilla movement. The partisans within the army and the government of the "strong manner" have but one with: to get rid of him as soon as possible. The silence which has fallen makes one fear the worst. The solution to the internal war which Colombia has been experiencing for dozens of years is political and social: it can not be deadlocked with a real negotiation with the guerrilla organizations and with their leaders.
We address ourselves to all those who are worried about the human rights situation in Colombia. We ask you to intercede with the Colombian authorities so that they treat the leaders of the different guerrilla organizations as political officials, that those who are in their hands benefit from democratic guarantees and that their physical and mental integrity be preserved. This appeal concerns particularly Francisco Caraballo and the militants arrested with him.
Paris, July 2, 1994
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Workers of France
The news took several days to reach us. Special units of the Colombian army have captured Francisco Caraballo. According to information provided by Colombian newspapers, this arrest took place very early in the morning in the area of Bogotá. Apparently no shots were fired and Francisco Caraballo was alive and did not show any signs of torture when he was shown to the journalists. But afterwards, more news. The hunt had, according to the military heads, lasted a year and eleven months. This corresponds generally to the period when a price was set upon the heads of all the guerrilla forces, as if they were common criminals. It is certain that the armed services benefited from the very active collaboration of a certain number of former guerrilleros, notably the former leaders of the EPL who had split in 1991 to lay down their arms. In exchange for amnesty, positions within certain political parties and money... they have turned over all the information which they had about the militants of the CPC(M-L) and the EPL, they thus turned it over to the killers of the armed services and of the paramilitary groups. Some of them have themselves become paramilitary groups pursuing a reign of terror in the regions in which they had operated several months previously as guerrilleros! The "total was" waged by the army and the paramilitary forces have transformed vast regions of Colombia into war zones in which everyone who does not collaborate actively with the army is considered as a sympathizer with the guerrilla movement and treated as such. The April issue of Amnesty International dedicated to Colombia drew up an edifying chart about the aggravation of the repression, stressing that assassination has become the primary cause of mortality of men in Colombia.
The life of F. Caraballo is really in danger. The press articles which appeared at the time of his capture tried to present him in the most negative picture possible with the evident goal of isolating him and presenting him as some kind of "undefendable" person. It is necessary to break this isolation as quickly as possible. This is the reason for the campaign which we have launched by disseminating the above communiqué and in inviting individuals and organizations to make themselves heard and requesting them to intercede with the Colombian authorities to treat F. Caraballo as a political militant. This campaign is being waged on the international level as well. To do it, one can utilize the text of the petition below and sent it to the Attorney General of Colombia and the Ambassador to France. One of the objectives is to form a commission which would meet in Colombia to see F. Caraballo. The class enemy has struck a blow. But it is deceiving itself when it affirms that this is the end of the party and of the EPL. The struggle will not cease with this arrest, on the contrary, and the CPC(M-L) has faced other blows from the enemy which it believed were decisive. It is necessary that the international solidarity be demonstrated quickly and concretely.
Francisco Caraballo, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist) and Commander in Chief of the People's Liberation Army (EPL) was arrested on June 22, 1994, by the armed forces.
We demand of the Colombian authorities that they treat him as a political prisoner and that his physical and mental integrity be preserved.
Francisco Caraballo was born in 1936. At a very early age he joined the Communist Party of Colombia. In 1964, along with other comrades he founded the Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist) and shortly thereafter the EPL, of which he became the first commander.
He has been a member of the Secretariat of the CPC(M-L) since its creation. After the assassination of Pedro León Arboleda in 1971, he was chosen First Secretary of the party. He has occupied that post ever since.
After the assassination of Ernesto Rojas (February 15, 1987), commander of the EPL and member of the Central Executive Committee of the CPC(M-L), it was Francisco Caraballo who assumed "the military command at the head of the general staff." He participated in this capacity in various meetings of the heads of the guerrilla organizations united in the Simón Bolívar Coordination.
Click here to return to Colombia Index