The FARC are apparently still a force to be reckoned with, according to a new report by two journalists who spent a week in the Eastern Plains with the Colombian rebel group.
Karl Penhaul and Carlos Villalon were embedded with the Compañia Marquetalia, a unit of the Eastern Bloc that was reportedly only established in January. The formation of this guerrilla unit is among the various structural changes implemented by Jaime Alberto Parra, alias “El Medico,” who took over after the death of “Mono Jojoy”·and is reshuffling command in the Eastern Bloc.
The video report, published in Colombian newspaper El Espectador, shows the guerrillas in combat, firing rounds of ammunition at an unseen target. Later we see them training, practicing military formation in a jungle camp. The overall effect is to give a positive impression of life in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC).
The guerrillas seem upbeat, and talk about their faith that they will win the war, take power, and change Colombia. “Are the FARC finished? No way. All the presidents since 1964 have been saying that we are finished with the FARC,” one commander tells the camera.
There is also idealism. The front’s commander, introduced in the video as alias “Jagwin,” mentions the unit’s “political work” as part of their agenda. In another scene, FARC medics are shown treating patients, including children, in a crude field hospital. It is a reminder that, in some rural areas, the FARC still provide basic services that are otherwise lacking.
“What we are trying to do every day is win the masses … we are the people and we work for the people,” one guerrilla medic says.
There are plenty of female guerrillas in the film, most young, and some with carefully styled hair and bright accessories.
But the video also gives a hint of the darker side of life with the FARC, which is weakened by the loss of many of its highest-level commanders and under constant threat of bomb attacks by the Colombian Air Force. The guerrillas on film appear preoccupied by the danger of aerial attacks, which seems to determine much of their actions.
The front’s second-in-command, alias “Willington 40,” admits to leaving behind comrades wounded in bombing raids. “It’s hard to leave them but it’s a matter of superior force. Sometimes you have to do it just to escape.”