Salvadoran Revolutionary “It took us 20 years to stand up against the powerful groups that controlled everything”

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Source: Diario La Página / The Dawn News / September 27, 2016

Photo credit: La Página
Photo credit: La Página

The leader of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) spoke with Telesur about the signing of the Peace Agreements in Colombia. Based on the experience of peace agreements in El Salvador, he spoke about the challenges that Colombians will face.

The FMLN has accompanied Colombia’s efforts for peace and on Monday, day in which the definitive peace agreement was signed, they celebrated the historical event.

José Luis Merino, one of the 3 main leaders of the Front, gave an interview with Telesur in the show “Seven Questions” and spoke about how El Salvador shared with Colombia the negotiation process and the signing of the Peace Agreements.

“We spoke with almost the entire leadership of our [Colombian] brothers”, Merino said from El Salvador, and added that “a relationship was built on their interest in the peace process, which gave lessons, of course, on how to structure, how to invert the escalation of war and how to invert the escalation of military muscle” he said.

Once peace was signed in Colombia, Merino acknowledged that there is a long way to go and a long time will pass before the guerrillas’ plans for transforming the country become a reality. In the case of El Salvador, Merino says it took the FMLN 20 years “of learning” until they managed to have their first President, Mauricio Funes, and now they are undergoing their second presidency with President Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

What’s the relationship, if any, between the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front and the FARC?

In the 80s, we had a fraternal relationship because we were undergoing similar liberation struggles and our representatives met in every corner of the world where there was an expression of solidarity with armed freedom struggles. We sang together in meetings, and we felt united in the struggle. That was the base for our brotherhood and friendship.

As time went on, we signed the Peace Agreements, as our brothers carried on their struggle. Some of the Colombian comrades that had fought with us went back to their homeland and despite our change of situation, we still remained brothers and fighters for the same cause. We began to share with them the lessons we had learned, our experience in the path to peace, and they were always very interested in learning what the process had been like.

I’d say this has been the time when we were most united. We went to speak with Commander Marulanda, with comrade Raúl Reyes, with almost the entirety of the leadership of our [Colombian] brothers, and a relationship was built on their interest in the peace process, which gave lessons, of course, on how to structure, how to invert the escalation of war, and how to invert the escalation of military muscle.

It’s not a coincidence that the first world summit for peace in Colombia was held in El Salvador. We also went to the second summit in Mexico and the third one in Nicaragua. That gave birth to the Caugán process (1), which we of course celebrated. Sadly, that process ended due to several reasons. We supported them again in this new process in private sessions and as observers in the meetings between both parts.

So now we’re very happy, we see ourselves in the Colombian comrades and we’re as happy as any Colombian about this. We value highly what this means for our peoples, and what it means for Latin America, to finally close this bleeding wound. We are moved.

After the signing of the Peace Agreements in El Salvador, 20 years went by, with four right-wing presidents and the dollarization of the economy. Is Colombia currently exposed to a similar situation?

We used to say “weapons went silent, guns went silent, but the struggle continues”. I heard a quote by Commander Timochenko today. He said that “the signing of the Peace Agreements doesn’t mean that socialism and capitalism are going to melt in hugs and kisses —the struggle continues”.

And without a doubt, the Colombian people, who has an enormous experience in organization, struggle, and mobilization, is going to have more space to express itself because there’s going to be a greater respect for citizen’s rights. So they’re going to strengthen their struggle for rights and freedom. The scenario changes, but the core still is to defend the true interests of all Colombians.

It took us 20 years of intense work, organization and learning to develop our capabilities to confront the powerful groups that controlled everything.

But we’re confident in that our Colombian brothers and sisters are going to find the ways to defend their interests and hopefully it will take them less than 20 years to reach power and build the dreams of the people.

Even now, as we’re in power, there are still difficulties for us. We have to fight against those that want to take us down and suppress us. So we’re still learning too.

Do you think that the signing of the peace in Colombia will mean that the US will shut down its military bases? Or will they remain active?

Well, the logical thing would be for them to shut them down and allow our Colombian brothers and sisters to be in charge of their own destiny.

In our case, North Americans accompanied the negotiations and, as far as we know, in Colombia there are also North American interests supporting the negotiation. Of course, some actors have been making declarations, and criticizing President Obama for facilitating Colombia’s negotiations, and without a doubt they are going to continue trying to hinder the process.

(1) Peace negotiations held from 1999 to 2002 between the FARC and the Colombian government of Andrés Pastrana.

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