This morning, an email made me look up from the piles of papers scattered on my floor.
The Jockey Club, traditionally, was a place off boundaries unless you were a white male and part of Bogotá’s elite. I was barred from entering unless accompanied by a male member. At the Jockey Club, through the decades, you found men and their spouses were clones of one another: they were educated at the same schools in Bogotá, and they married into the same circle. Along with the membership at the Jockey Club, families inherited their political alliances. The men were used to rotating government posts, including the presidency.
In 1958, representatives of the white men of Bogotá’s Jockey Club negotiated an ending to the civil war of “La Violencia.” The Liberal Alberto Lleras and the Conservative Laureano Gómez met in Benidorm, a beach town in Spain, where they agreed to alternate governing parties every four years, for a period of sixteen years, from 1958 to 1974. The Declaration of Benidorm of 1958, or the National Front, locked out any independents or any other political party. Naturally, at the time, the supporters of the Communist and Socialist Parties were disenchanted with the agreement. They continued to feel they had no voice in the government, which was their initial seed to embrace the Communist and Socialist ideas, and eventually came to be one of the reasons they armed themselves and irrevocably took up guerrilla warfare.
In 1964, Manuel Marulanda, the FARC’s founder, wrote to the Conservative President León Valencia, who had been appointed to office as a result of the National Front agreement. According to FARC ideologue Jacobo Arenas and historian Arturo Alape,* Marulanda expressed: “ .. Our ‘crime’ that has earned us the rage of the oligarchy and of the military heads is our opposition to the bipartisan system of the oligarchic ‘National Front,’ which we consider anti-democratic and anti-national ..”
* Quote from Jacobo Arenas, Diario de la resistencia de Marquetalia. (Colombia: Abejo Mono, 1972.) P. 17. Also found in Arturo Alape, Las Vidas de Pedro Antonio Marín Manuel Marulanda Vélez Tirofijo. (Santafé de Bogotá: Planeta, 1989.) P. 323.
Colombians seemingly have not learned much from history. Many people have been expressing, for as long as the current negotiations have been going on, that they have no voice in the peace table in Havana.
This morning, I received in my email, a petition to Give Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Peoples a Voice at the current Peace Table.
More information here.
How many more “peace tables” do we need for an inclusive robust democratic Colombia?
It is tiring to read in today’s papers, the same debates that occurred fifty years ago, only that the same roles are now being played by new actors. Will our children be reading the same sorts of headlines, and receiving the same sorts of petitions?