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Lifestory of Lizeth, a guerrilla fighter of the FARC-EP

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Lifestory of Lizeth, a guerrilla fighter of the FARC-EP

One year after the death of the eleven heroic guerrilla fighters who fell under the murderous bombs of this cruel imperialism and oligarchy, who have no mercy and kill the poor people of my country

In memoriam of Yurib?, the nom de guerre of my sister, who also unfortunately fell during the coward bombing of October 11th 2011, along with 10 comrades.

I want to tell the story of our lives. This is very hard for me, but I feel obliged to do so. For the world to get aware about the situation in this country. And to judge if our cause is just or not!

My sister and I

We belong to a poor family. My dad's family lives in Barranquilla, my mother's family in North Santander. We grew up with my mother's family.

My earliest childhood memories are very tragic. I was about six years old and my sister about ten. One morning we woke up surrounded by uniformed people. We were pretty scared, and we soon realized that the paramilitaries were scrambled with the Army. Then they took my father and some other people with them, some 20 minutes away from our home. As my father and mother were separated, some of my brothers stayed with my mother and others with my dad. Since we lived close, about two minutes on the way, my sister ran to tell the others. We all gathered in my father's house to pray for him; everybody was crying. Suddenly, we all heard some shots and gunfire, coming from the direction they had been taken to. We were desperate. It was horrifying to think that they were being killed.

We suffered a lot, felt like our hearts were breaking. One hour later, my dad arrived, but that hour seemed an eternity to us. Finally he arrived. We hugged and kissed him because he hadn't been killed. Then he told us that the gunshots we had heard came from the paramilitaries, who were killing a mule driver, an acquaintance of us. An informant of the paramilitaries had accused him of being a collaborator of the guerrillas. My father told us that they shot at him for some hundred times because he did not fall to the floor, and kept on asking for water. And the paramilitaries were scared; they said he was a demon. Finally, his body was torn into pieces by the bullets.

The next day the paramilitaries came back to the house. We were afraid. They were scattered all over the road, and laid their hands on a young boy with some mules. They tied him up on the side of the road and threatened to cut his penis off with his own machete. His hands were tied behind his back.? We felt upset seeing that boy there humiliated. We were unable to do anything for him. Later on, at noon, we saw a man, who had been a worker of ours, passing by. He was just a worker, like us. He was drunk. When he saw the AUC bracelet he panicked and started to run zigzag.

The shooting started again, but now in our presence. I was very scared and I embraced my dad. He covered my eyes, I was scared and I was whining but I could see what was happening. One of my sisters just stood there like a statue, staring at it, with her big, astonished eyes. Finally they succeeded to shoot him in his knee, and then they attacked him with machetes like hungry animals, and they cut him into pieces. But the worst thing was to see their commander licking the blood, which was running down from the machete. When I saw that, I managed to sneak away from my father's arms and hid under the bed, terrified.

While we were watching that drama, they had slit the throat of the boy who was tied up. After that, their commander asked my dad if the children had seen what had happened. But he did not answer them at all; he was outraged. Right away, they left to other houses and continued killing people.

Afterwards, all the people gathered and the dead were buried next to the house. And my dad decided that the best thing to do was to leave the area. He started to sell everything he could, to gather money for the journey to Barranquilla, where his family lived. Another difficult period started for us. My parents separated. Dad took off with four children, and my mother was left with three. Among the ones who stayed with my mother was Yuribá; she never wanted to separate from my mom. But when we were trying to leave, the paramilitaries got back.

All the people, who were about to leave, had gathered in a house. The paramilitaries took all the men out of the house and made them form in rows. They placed an informant in front of them, and he pointed at the ones that should be killed. They had already taken about three men out of the row. Their families wept and begged for them to be left alone, claiming that they were innocent. Suddenly the informant pointed at my dad. We shuddered and trembled with fear, but nothing happened because the informant said he was a poor man, father of a lot of children. We felt relieved; they let him go. But they killed about four other men, and the others were told to leave the area, that if they saw us again they would kill us. That same day we left for Cucuta, and then we boarded a bus to Barranquilla.

During the trip, we were excited to know such a big city. The bus stopped at mealtimes and for refreshments, the bus ride took about one and a half day. I was impressed when we entered the city. A huge bridge, the big sea. A large bakery. It was the first time I saw those things with my own eyes. We were happy, but not happy enough to forget about the past, because in that hell we left our hearts, our mother and our brothers. We had a lot of wonderful experiences there; we met our uncles and cousins, and our dear grandmother. Who was really wonderful with us. With that part of the family, we used to go downtown, to drive bumper cars, to visit Barranquilla's stadium, to go to the beach.

Everything was wonderful. But there was also a sad reality, begging children, elderly people on the streets, thieves, robbers, you'd see a lot of things between those huge beautiful buildings and places, it was a picture of misery, there was a huge inequality. After a few days my father returned to the North and left us with a brother of his. And they sent us to the Pentecostal Church. Where we lived was a poor street, the streets were not paved. We were there until my father returned. He had come back to pick us up. On one hand we were happy about it, but on the other hand we felt sad. We were happy because we would meet again with our mom and brothers. We felt sad because we had to leave this beautiful city with its sea we would never see again, as well as those uncles and cousins, and that loving grandmother, who would suffer, because he had grown fond of us.

Well, back to Cucuta. We were all really happy. The family meeting, nothing bad had happened to them; we all remembered the sad story. But there was something I did not like at all: my mom was living with another man and my dad with another woman, who worked at a bar and had two children. And I was about to turn eight. We celebrated my birthday and I stayed with my dad. He had a little stall where he sold arepas stuffed with eggs. That's how we survived.

My older sister got married and had a child. And as I hated my stepmother and she hated me, I started to live with my sister. She lived in Ocaña, I took care of her little girl and I was studying, too. My brother-in-law was often drunk but at least we had money to buy food. I studied about two months and then I felt homesick, and left for the countryside, with my mother and my sister Yuribá. But there was another problem, I didn't get along with my stepfather either. Because he used to hit the three of us, my sister, mother and me. And he didn't work at all. And he used to take our money away from us, to get drunk. He never brought a grain of rice to the house. Life was terrible with my mother.

When I was ten years old my sister Yuribá was fourteen. We loved each other very much. As she was older than I was, she took me everywhere she went. One day my mom told us to go and get some meat. We went three: Yuribá, my other brother, who was two years older than I, and me. When we arrived, we met the guerrilla fighters of the FARC. Yuribá had a boyfriend there and he was there with the others. For us, in the village, the guerrilla was an authority; we were very familiar with them, because we used to see them in the town and they were very good and kind to the peasants. Sometimes they gave us food. They earn the affection of the people, not with words, but with deeds. And who doesn't like people who are so kind, loving and respectful of one! They are the opposite of the soldiers and paramilitaries who pass by to kill us and displace us and humble us.

So as my sister's boyfriend was there, we started hanging out with them. And we slept in the house of the head of the militia. The three of us, with Yuribá's boyfriend, slept on a tent. That night my sister told me that she had joined the guerrilla, but I didn't believe her. The next day, at about 6 am, my brother and I woke up. We started to ask for Yurib? and we were told that she had left with the guerrilla. I wanted to start looking for her, but my brother didn't want to so we went home. We arrived without meat and without Yuribá. But my mother was waiting for us on the road. When she asked for Yuribá we didn't know what to say. But finally we told her the truth, and she got angry, but she didn't cry at that moment. She just said "I supposed she would do this." When we arrived at the house we felt nostalgia of thinking we wouldn't see Yuribá ever again. For me it was very hard because it was the sister I most loved, and she had gone with the guerrilla, leaving me alone, now I didn't have anyone who supported me or who could defend me from my stepfather.

From then on everything got more complicated for me. I had to learn how to cook. We took turns; one week it was my twin sister, another week my brother, and the other week it was my turn. Because my mother worked her fingers to the bone to buy food and clothes for us. The situation got worse with my stepfather. He used to hit me all the time, and he hit my mom, too. One day my brother was going to attack him with his machete, but my mommy, with tears in her eyes, stopped him. We were all tired of this situation.

Some time after she had joined the guerrilla, my sister dropped by to visit us. She told us that she was fine, that it was really nice there, that they were like a very close family. We told her that our stepfather had become unbearable, and she was really worried about that. Before she left, she stood up right in front of him and said that if he kept on hitting my mom and us, she would drop by again to shoot him in his feet. She was furious. And she left. I started to get more desperate every day. When I was eleven, one day he hit me again and I was furious, went to a creek and stayed there until dark. I thought about a lot of things, about Yuribá, how much I missed her at home. I prayed for the guerrilla to pass by, to go with them. I remembered my childhood and I told myself that my stepfather was a paramilitary and that he should die. I didn't want to go home and fell asleep under a big rock.

Later that night some lights woke me up. I remembered the morning I woke up surrounded by paramilitaries and I was scared. But it were my mother and my brothers who were looking for me. They took me home with them. A few days later I found the guerrilla and asked them if I could join them, but they said I couldn't, that I had to grow up first, that I was only a child. That forced me to make another decision, slip away from my home. I left because I could not stand it anymore. My mom took me back, but I left again. I was twelve and I started living together with a man of twenty-eight. But I didn't last with him, he left me after three months. Some days later, I finally joined the guerrilla. My dream was to find my sister, and an uncle who had joined the guerrilla, too.

A new world

Here, in the FARC, everything was different. Everything got better for me. I lasted three months in a basic course. That was very interesting, because they use to first arm your head and then your hands. I started to fully understand the things I had been through. I realized that poverty was not because of the Holy Spirit's grace, that there were people responsible of it. Responsible were those whose faces I had seen when they killed my people. And they were led by the State. And that the State was kneeling before a larger enemy, the American oligarchy. And I also realized that we had rights, that when a man is born he has the same rights and duties in society as everyone else. Therefore there shouldn't be rich or poor.

I also understood that the story of God is a policy that has been imposed by capitalists for centuries, so for the poor to believe that they live in misery because it's God's will. So that we are not aware about the fact that we are poor because a small part of society takes away from us what belongs to us. And there are still many farmers and workers who ask God, every day, to improve their living conditions, when in fact we have to make our claims to the State, whose obligation it is to guarantee us a better life.

After discovering all these things, I realized I had taken the right path. And I'm here because I love my people and I want them to have a better life. I love my mother and my father, but I do not fight only for them. I fight for all the poor families who, like mine, suffer in that miserable Colombia. I acquired this education and conscience thanks to the organization.

After three years in the FARC, I was transferred to another unit and I could meet my uncle. I was glad. And a few days later I met with the one I most wanted to see, my beautiful sister. We hugged each other for a long time. She was very pretty, fleshy and strengthened, we talk a lot and we were happy to find ourselves together. To be fighting for the same and with the same ideas. Both of us found it very easy to understand and embrace this cause, had gone through the same story and had suffered a lot. We were sure about what we were doing. We stayed together for about a year. She was an excellent nurse and I had just gone through a nursing course. We shared difficult moments and happy moments. When our boyfriends were not there, we used to sleep together and eat together. We loved each other a lot.

I remember she liked to tease me repeating a phrase: You have to do what I say because I'm your older sister. Then I replied that in the Four Corners, referring to the Regulation norms of the FARC, there is no difference between an older sister a younger one. Then we used to burst in laughter together. She helped our uncle a lot, and told me to take more care of him. The three of us took care of each other a lot. My sister expressed her desire to further professionalize as a nurse. She was transferred to another location where it would be possible to fulfil her wish.

Here in the guerrilla one has the privilege to get prepared in a lot of things, without any cost at all. You just have to behave properly. She had about eight months of preparation and was then sent to a unit of public order, to put into practice what he had learned. I was assigned to serve as ground staff in a course of cadres. There I had the opportunity to learn a lot, militarily and politically, because every day you learn something new. Here, every day there is something to be learned, knowledge is infinite. Then I was sent to a unit of mass organization. I met my sister on three separate occasions, in which we had all the time to talk and entrust each other everything.

I didn't see her again. Although I missed her a lot, I wasn't angry about that with the commanders. We were both clear and aware that this is the way the struggle is, they need one here and another one over there. The most important thing is to contribute to this cause, according to your capacities. We used to write each other a lot, telling us all the good and the bad things. And we helped each other through these letters. About a year later I found out that she had been sent to the column commanded by Danilo and I asked if it was true. They confirmed it. To say the truth, I was a little concerned, I knew that in that unit the military operations were tough and frequent, but I understood the situation.

One morning we heard on the news that they had bombed a FARC camp and that Eli?cer and 30 other guerrilla fighters had been killed. I said I wished it weren't true and wished that among the fallen there would be no one I knew. You feel hurt about the death of any guerrilla fighter, because you know that even without knowing them, they are brothers in this struggle, who have suffered this war in the same way or even worse than you do. But it hurts even more when guerrillas who shared some years with you, die. But we know that a war, unfortunately, brings the death of both contenders. Otherwise it wouldn't be war.

When I heard the news, I was working at a commission. Some three days later we were picked up and they took us to a camp. I waved happily to my uncle who was there. I noticed something strange when he said we needed to talk now. He was pale. I asked him if it was anything serious and he nodded. I panicked and immediately thought of many things, but the only thing I didn't imagine had happened. We walked a few feet away from the other people and then he proceeded to tell me that his commanders had confirmed that he Yuribá had died. And he had been entrusted with the task to notify me.

I was speechless. At that moment I didn't cry. My first thought was to ask them to send me to fight, to kill many soldiers as revenge. But then pain and tears came up, and I thought about it. Again I felt myself being ripped apart, it is very hard; it's something one can understand but cannot resign to. I lost the person I most loved, who had accompanied me through thick and thin. That's terrible, it is not the same to say it as to feel it. Those were very sad days for me, but thanks to my uncle, my boyfriend and all the guerrilla fighters who were really supportive with me, I started to think about getting over it. All of them were hurt, too, because my sister was a very humble woman and she was really loved in the guerrilla. Thanks to all of them I concluded that what I had to do was to keep on fighting, harder and with more reasons than before.

My reflections

Afterwards, I heard President Santos and the minister of defence talking on the news. They were proud and happy to have actually killed eleven young people, including three women who were not even 23 years old. What a miserable president do we have in Colombia. He believes that killing people he will get us on our knees or break down our morale. Do you want me to say something, mister Santos? You are wrong. Every time a guerrilla fighter dies we fight harder and with more motivation than before. If you kill five guerrilla fighters today, tomorrow ten will join us because our struggle is supported by the people, the poor people of this country, and we are majority.

Keep in mind that each time a guerrilla fighter dies, there's one more family who disgusts you. So whenever in your speeches you say you want peace, that you are tired of this war, we laugh about it, because we know that you have no idea what war is. You and your government machinery, the rich people of this country have lived all their lives in palaces, you don't have any needs, you have your pockets filled up with money. Money you have stolen from us. So we are clear about the fact that you and your group won't spend a single penny from your pockets to improve the lives of Colombians, you never will. At least not willingly.

Personally I have a doubt, mister Santos. If you are a robot or a human being. Because there is nothing human about you. Only a machine acts like you capitalists do, oligarchs, pipi Yankees or whatever your name is. The hypocrite role the Yankees want you to play doesn't fit you. Anyone who hears your words without knowing your past would think you are a revolutionary. False, because while you publicly declare that we have to work to reduce poverty, actually you act as Fidel said in a speech: "It's impossible to stop diseases killing the sick, or to stop ignorance killing the ignorant". And Che Guevara said: "Words are not facts, and if they meet each other they don't greet, because they do not know each other."

Fortunately the Colombian people are not fools anymore. We don't pay attention to words; we need deeds. That mask you have on your face doesn't fit you, mister Santos. Note that there is a big difference between you oligarchs and we revolutionaries. We are never happy about a soldier's death, because we know better than anyone that those soldiers who die every day are peasants, poor people like us. And that they are there because they are obligated to pay military service, or because they need to earn an income and feed their families. Or because they are deceived. We have been formed with the idea of having a deep respect for the enemy. Here, it isn't allowed to mistreat the enemy, even prisoners of war, with insults. Commander Manuel Marulanda never allowed us to call the soldiers "vultures".

I know that these soldiers are unaware of the fact that this war is a class struggle pitting the rich against the poor and vice versa. I know many of them have not even asked themselves on which side they are: the side of the rich or the side of the poor. I want to ask the soldiers who fight for the rich a question: What is better, to sacrifice ourselves and suffer for a while, or to be begging your whole life? Haven't you ever wondered why the children of the rich don't ever risk their lives to fight for their class? What is better, to die for our class or die defending the interests of those who have stolen everything? If we die defending our people, history will consider us martyrs, but if we die defending transnational companies, history will judge us as traitors. What do you prefer?

As for Santos, I would like to dedicate the album called Judas, from Diomedes Diaz, to you. And this isn't said by a FARC commander, or an intellectual, this is said by a guerrilla girl who is barely twenty years old. But that doesn't mean I'm not telling you the truth.

I?ve told this story not to sing the praises of myself, but because I want everyone to know this reality, it's just one of those every day and every moment Colombians lives. And I want everybody to ask and judge whether our cause is just or not.

I would also like to respond to Vice President Angelino Garz?n, a traitor to his class. Who knows how much money he received for putting himself at the service of those who exploit, after being a union leader. He has his mouth full of words about the FARC recruiting children, real children. Why didn?t they defend us when they sent us their groups to kill our parents, brothers, and even children? Why didn?t they fight for human rights then? Because it is clear, they don?t care about the children, they do it with the purpose of discrediting the FARC.

You know what the children who join the guerrilla want to tell you? As you attack us being children, we have to defend ourselves being children. I want you and the whole country to know that nobody here is obligated or forced to join the guerrilla. On the contrary, we have to beg and explain again and again why we want them to let us in. Because the guerrilla has recruiting rules, which in exceptional cases, like mine, have to be disobeyed.

I also invite the workers, peasants, students, miners, indigenous people, intellectuals and all the people in general to leave the differences aside and mark a route. To be united, so that we can fight against our enemy, which is everyone's enemy, imperialism, capitalism; it's the only way we can beat them. This struggle is not only a FARC's struggle, but the struggle of anyone who belongs to the exploited class.

Every time there is a bombing, or a leader of a community dies, or a child, or any human being, I wonder: How long will people continue supporting it? How many more deaths will be necessary for the people to rise up against those who oppress and murder? I would say that it's about time. We?ve already had many dead people.

Do you think it is right that while some are giving their lives to change this criminal regime, you remain in front of the television, alienated and lost from reality, enthralled with novels and realities? Have you ever wondered if that's fair? Television, movies and programs are designed by our enemies to keep control. Do not give them that pleasure, put off the TV. Let?s go on the streets to support those who fight for a change in this country. I do not mean that the only way of struggling is to carry a rifle here in the FARC. No. There are many other ways to fight, in worker unions, at school, at your neighbourhood or in the communist party, protesting, claiming. We cannot remain with our arms crossed.

Let's ask ourselves: Why in neighbouring countries people live in other conditions and are trying to construct a better life? Is it not because the governments of these countries are revolutionary, true representatives of the people? They are people who have suffered and fought for their ideas. Why is it that in Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina things are changing, while in Colombia they don't?

It?s true that the FARC started dialogues. But that doesn't mean that things will change just like that. Don?t forget that only the people make changes. When the president says he wants peace, at the same time he is saying we are going to kill the insurgency. What can we expect from a man like that? And yet he is still dreaming of becoming president again, what a shame.

He should be ashamed about the fact that with bombs, airplanes and even missiles neither he wasn't, nor will be, able to kill thousands of peasants armed only with a gun to defend themselves. The only way you can kill us is when we are sleeping, with planes and bombs of up to five hundred kilos. Because on the ground we'll see who would win. Despite that, we consider the soldiers to be really brave men. Even when they obtain victories, unfortunately it are the generals who get medals, while they have not done anything else as dispatching orders. So I'm sure that someday they will gain awareness and will oppose themselves to keep on killing us among ourselves. They will not allow to be used as cannon fodder anymore.

Mister Santos, and all the rich people of this country: why don't you send your children, or your families, to fight at the front line? So for them to know what it is to lose a loved one, to try out what war is like. And don't take advantage of the needs of Colombians anymore. Defend yourself, don't use other people to defend you! But I have faith that this will not last for a long time anymore.

On behalf of all the martyrs like Alfonso Cano, Raul Reyes, Ivan Rios, Jorge Briceño, Danilo García, Yuribá, Francy, Betty, Yuli, Dairon, Jawin, Farley, and all the warriors who have fallen in this struggle, I invite the Colombian people to stand up and fight together. Because unity is strength, united we will overcome. Let's put an end to so much death, let's not allow one more. Let's shout all together: It's enough! And if it's necessary, we will construct a revolution.

Lizeth, Catatumbo jungle, October 2012.

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