Document | 2/3/2009 12:00:00 AM
'Tirofijo', by his best friend
This is the biography from the first years of war of FARC leader “Tirofijo,” by Jaime Guaracas, one of his comrades in arms.
“Pedro Antonio Marín was born on May 12, 1928 in the municipality of Génova, in what was the department of Caldas. He was the son of a couple of humble farmers composed of Rosa Delia Marín and Pedro Pablo Marín, from whose marriage were born the siblings, from oldest to youngest: Rosa Helena, Jesús Antonio (who died in combat in 1957 by government troops), Carmen Obdulia and Rosa María Marín, the only survivor to this today.
“As an adolescent at 16 years of age and because of difficulties that the countryside presented, he was unable to finish his fifth year of elementary school in the small rural school where he studied. Very soon he became a professional woodcutter, using manual techniques, selling wood in the town market, where he also sold cheese. That is where he was on April 9, 1948, the day that they assassinated Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in Bogotá.
“The first fact that impacted him was the destruction and burning of the municipality of Ceilán, where he would take the cheese and wood to sell- and the massacre of the Liberal population. This situation forced him to abandon his work and begin to protect himself. When he returned to his town of birth, Génova, the police detained him (his only arrest in his life), accused him of having participated in the events at Ceilán, when the promoters of those acts were the very police and armed Conservatives- a situation that was resolved by asking permission from his captors to go and resolve a work matter. He did not return to the police. That was in 1948.
“In 1949 the situation in Colombia continued to worsen and that is when he resolved at 21 years of age to organize the first guerrilla group, which he created only with cousins and relatives.
“In the middle of that year, together with Liberal guerrillas led by his third-cousin Gerardo Loaiza, he participated in multiple combats with the Army and the Police and in one of them he was one of the first fighters to pick up a new gun and with abundant ammunition…. And very soon he learned how to use it with admirable skill and precision. He put a piece of notebook paper at a distance of 800 meters and a shot by him tore it into two…
“In that same year he began to observe and establish a clear difference in the behavior and conduct of the two guerrilla movements, that of the Clean Liberals and of the Communists. The young guerrilla observed the first episode which made him reflect a lot, when he arrived at a camp of the Clean Liberals and saw his friend Jacobo Frías Álape ('Charro Negro') who they had detained and tied up… With the bravery and the gift of a leader that he already had, he went to the main leaders and with his soft, paused but energetic voice reproached them: ‘I need you to let Charro go right now, this cannot be delayed because I need to speak with him.’ At the beginning of 1951 the agreements between the two guerrilla groups to set up a joint command were broken and an armed confrontation began between the two guerrilla groups…
“In 1952 he participated in a political and ideological course for the formation of cadres for the Communist Party. The school was organized in the Buenavista settlement in the highest part of the Davis, the only course in which he participated in as a student. At the graduation he proposes to join the Communist Party of Colombia and there they baptized him with the name of ‘Manuel Marulanda Vélez…’
“In the government of Rojas Pinilla, the Clean Liberal guerrillas arrived at an agreement with the central government and the Army, aided and poked by the traditional Liberal and Conservative parties undertook a gathering in order to take the Davis and wipe out the Communist guerrillas… The proposal of the comrade was the following: leave the Davis as quick as possible, secondly, the important thing is to save our people, third, that the terrain will be recuperated later and fourth the civilian population or families can take advantage of the offer of Rojas Pinilla and return to their hometowns and work. However, the leadership left a complete company of 75 men who were completely annihilated in joint operations of the Army and the Clean Liberals.
“In 1959, taking advantage of a relative pacification that the National Front offered, he began exemplary work as an inspector of roads in the construction of the highway of Carmen (Huila) to Gaitania (Tolima)… but with the assassination of ‘Charro Negro’ by ‘Mariachi’ gangs from the Clean Liberals, he left his job and returned to political work in Gaitania and Marquetalia. The military leaders prohibited his political work. This time threatened by Major Torres and Colonel Charry, commander of the Tenerife Battalion from Neiva, who told him if he continued to meet with the farmers, they would arrest him.
“So he said, ‘We have to hold millions of meetings with the peasants in order to motivate them to take power, but these people have bad intentions with us. They want to screw us, but we are not going to give them that possibility. From now on, we will no longer flee to Gaitania…’ He established himself for good in Marquetalia, assumed the command that ‘Charro Negro’ had and began to reorganize the entire region.
“In 1961, after a profound analysis, he proposed the necessity of creating a small mobile group which he gave the name of the Autodefensa Regular (Regular Self-defenses), but that the leadership should give this group all that was necessary to become a mobile guerrilla group. The Army was informed of his presence and launched a siege operation. That was the first time we were fenced in. There were battles on various flanks for two days and suddenly, when night fell, we left from there and the bourgeois Army did not even realize where we went.
“After an assembly with the entire population of Marquetalia, in view of the continuous attacks, incursions, assassination of indigenous peoples, burning of houses by the paramilitary group that the Army heads had created in Gaitania, the comrade Marulanda proposed the following: ‘the next time that the presence of Alirio Salcedo (paramilitary head) and his group is detected in the region, everyone who can walk will mobilize in the pursuit as far as we can, even if it means entering Gaitania…’ On September 4, the group attacked and we residents left in pursuit. A strong but rapid combat ensued, which produced two dead: Alirio and Sotelo. The rest fled disbanded.
“In April 1964 the comrades from the party Jacobo Arenas and Hernando Gonzalez arrived in the region, and found us standing guard and in the trenches. They brought a complete report about the plan of the government of Guillermo León Valencia against the Marquetalia region… Upon getting the report, the comrade requested that the session be put on hold by 24 hours in order to think, but eight hours later proposed to resume and presented his proposal. ‘First, the offensive or attack that comes against us is big and dangerous. Second, we have to face it and for that we need to be mobile. Third, we must not expose the civilian population for them to be massacred or that they should die of hunger. Fourth, in less than 48 hours we have to evacuate everyone who cannot adapt to guerrilla life. Fifth, the government has declared war on us which may be prolonged for many years…’ So he directs the resistance with only 52 young peasants and two women… On July 20 of that year, the general assembly is held by the residents of Marquetalia, in the jungle which was our only home we decided from that date on that we would become revolutionary fighters.”