BY JOSÉ CARLOS MARULANDA
Former guerrilla leader and current presidential candidate Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño has been out in the streets of Colombia showing the people that he is willing to put his safety on the line to transform our country.
While many of his supporters shower him with hugs and words of encouragement, others bombard him with curse words and tossed eggs. This attitude towards a politician is normal. After all, politicians are usually deserving of the anger produced by the conditions they create through their self-serving class interests.
But Timochenko is more than just a politician — his class interests align with that of the majority of Colombians.
As author James Brittain demonstrated in his insightful book “Revolutionary Social Change in Colombia,” the majority of charges held against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, were based on propaganda spouted by the state and the military used to justify their war against the revolutionary group.
Therefore, to see fellow compatriots showing such rage and disdain for Timochenko is not just sad — it’s angering and breaks your heart.
Here is a man who has given all of his life striving to make Colombia a better place for us. A man who has put his life in danger for decades in order to give us hope and inspiration at a time when it all seems impossible to change our reality. Poverty in urban and rural areas is through the roof. Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities are ignored and when they protest, their leaders are shot and killed.
To attack Timochenko, be it through vulgarities or tossed eggs, is to attack ourselves.
If there is a political and social force that has stood up for us against the parasitic elites in the country, it’s the FARC. Both as a guerrilla movement and a political party.
Therefore, it’s not enough to say we should be “tolerant of differences,” as so many liberal commentators say about Colombia’s situation. We have to go beyond that basic argument.
We should not be tolerant of Timochenko and the FARC — we should be thankful to them. We should not just allow them to campaign for the presidency. We should vote for them and change the imposed conditions of poverty, ignorance and inequality.
Timo, as someone whose parents were forced to flee Armenia, the same city where residents cursed at you on the streets and chased you out, I apologize for the ignorant and misguided actions of my compatriots.
If I were there, I would have shouted at the top of my lungs in your support. Even if I didn’t cancel out the politically illiterate screeches of those crowds, I would have defended you.
Not only because I admire you as a person and think you deserve respect, but also because you and your party are the future.
From a Colombian in exile.