Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | September 28, 2010

FARC’s ten-year-old errand boy grows up to become its most cold-blooded

To Colombians, news of the death of Mono Jojoy is akin to hearing that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Colombians call Jojoy’s end, the end of the end, of the FARC. If Osama was dead, would you call it the end of Al-Qaeda? The end of the Taliban?

Really, Colombians insist, it is the end. Even actress Sofia Vergara assures Letterman that Colombia is now a much safer place.

Apparently, Mono Jojoy’s cold-blooded ways are irreplaceable even amongst some of the most cold-blooded in the planet: During the DMZ, with a beaming smile and his Guevarrista beret, Mono Jojoy showed off to journalists and visitors the FARC’s prisoners of war—three hundred low-ranked policemen and soldiers, as emaciated as you’d imagine Nazi camp survivors. Under his orders, the men were caged and exposed to the elements. (Yesid and Benjamin were amongst them; remember these two brothers? They said the cages were “like a henhouse” and not “fit for pigs.”) The caged human beings were Mono Jojoy’s personal project.

The U.S. State Department had offered a $5 million reward for his head. At the time that government bombs fell on his camp during “Operation Sodoma,” and he was asphyxiated when the walls of his refuge, a cave, collapsed, there were 62 orders for his arrest, five extradiction requests, and 105 preliminary investigations of all kinds.

Mono Jojoy is the man dancing in this video, taped days before his death. The woman is his “sentimental compañera,” his tent-mate.

Mono Jojoy is also the cadaver spewed across the headlines all over Colombia.

And those are the images from which Colombian children are not shielded these days. “I saw the body,” a kid whispers in the schoolyard, “I’ll tell you about it.” Like pornography; no, more sickening than the worst kinds of pornography: That’s blood under the green blanket. That’s a human face turning white, the streaming blood congealing.

Mono Jojoy, whose nom de guerre derrives from a type of earthworm that easily wiggles away from predators, was born Jorge Briceno Suarez. Rebellion, revolution, the people’s struggle! All was in the boy’s genes: His grandfather was a liberal guerrilla during the War of the Thousand Days in 1899. His father, Noé Suárez Castellanos, was killed alongside Juan de la Cruz Varela, another one whose mere mention still makes old people cringe. His mother, Romelia Rojas, was one of the first female FARC members. She was the cook for Jacobo Arenas, a high-profile Communist. (So much for equality: Romelia, the Communist revolutionary, was subordinated to “female” chores. Romelia, did you not ask Jacobo what-up-with-that?)

The topics discussed around Mono Jojoy, the child, were: agrarian reform, the oligarchy killed Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, and how can we kill the oligarchy.

By the age of ten, in 1963, Mono Jojoy was an errand boy for what a year later would become the FARC: delivering confidential messages, transporting goods, and guiding forces through terrain he’d mastered. The boy also, oh-so-innocently-you’d-think, loitered in police stations with the intention of reporting back on what was said.

Mono Jojoy told the writer, Alfredo Molano, that he used to make his own ammunition from clay, and “a special one we called ‘Dum-Dum’ which had an iron ball in the center.” He used it to “blow off heads” with a sling-shot.

He was kicked out of school, he once told reporters, because he said the Holy Communion “tasted like nothing” (what foreshadowing for someone who later embodied Satan) and would taste better with dulce de leche. “I accepted my expulsion because … I have always liked guns,” he also confided.

Mono Jojoy was formally accepted in the FARC when he was 22 years old. He became the boy cherished by FARC founder “Sureshot,” and from him, he learned to never falter when making decisions, even if sanguine decisions. Mono Jojoy was chosen to be trained as a commander. His early years are like those of many teens in the FARC today, like Homero and Leonor.

One of his eldest brothers, Víctor Julio Suárez, remembers Mono Jojoy before he left home, he “had to take care of the cows, the pigs and do the less strenuous chores. We didn’t know where he went or what path in life he took. Only until now we realize it, but what can we do?”

There is one thing we can do: Editors, think of the psychological outcome of printing images of bloody cadavers. Mothers, turn off the news, pick up Mother Goose, and read to your child.

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