MARQUETALIA AND THE FARC
In Colombia, the Minister of War, General Ruiz Novoa, in the recent past, announced to the Congress that the bandit problem was no longer merely a political inspiration having domestic interest alone. Although it began as a result of politcal party rivalry, today bandit activity is influenced and directed from without the country, with directoral centers situated in urban areas being used as the principal means of directing and controlling subversive activities within the country. This is subversion in its most refined form.
Subversion, sabotage, riot and rebellion are not new techniques. Never before, however, have democratic nations been faced with a subversive movement composed of professed "citizens" whose orders come from abroad (such as Desquite's Band). This is precisely what is occurring in Colombia today and this is why Directive 001, which provides for adequate internal security, is so important. It unifies the armed forces in putting forth their efforts toward a common goal and in addition, it employs other agencies of the national government (DAS, Aduana and the National Police) in roles which, if followed, will create a cohesiveness of national counterinsurgency resources never before experienced in the country.Review of Plan LAZO, circa 1963
Police Action Eliminates Colombia's Notorious Bandit "DESQUITE," March 30, 1964
In letter, Valencia stated above equipment would be used against communist centers in southern Tolima (dominated by Marulanda or "Tiro Fijo"); the central and eastern cordilleras of Huila; and Rio Chiquito, Cauca. Valencia emphasized in letter that communists these areas are genuine and not crypto-communists. Also claimed they oriented toward Cuba whence they receive direction and financing. This loan request did not come as surprise, since we given advance information on GOC military plans move against Marulanda in Huila-Tolima some time ago. ... Troops already being moved into position southern Tolima, northern Huila and should be deployed on or about April 20 for operations.Telegram from Bogota Embassy to Secretary of State, April 1, 1964
We strongly believe we must provide all possible assistance to foster success operations against communists. For political reasons, do not see how we can fail give maximum support GOC in project which so clearly in our mutual interest and which represents voluntary GOC effort reduce communist danger this country. Operations against communist areas represent logical extension internal defense plan to support of which we committed. Our judgement is we must accede President Valencia's request to fullest measure possible. There no question but that requirement exists and that objective deserves strongest US support.Telegram from Bogota Embassy to Secretary of State, April 10, 1964
No doubt at all Marulanda and his followers genuine communists. Are currently receiving propaganda support Bogota other parts country from Communist Party, Fedepetrol Union, Communist Youth and other extremists. GOC and its military forces firmly committed to campaign against Marulanda with troops and aircraft already deployed. They intend carry plan to successful conclusion. We wish emphasize here that prestige of government from President on down is at stake in anti-commie campaign. Possibility cannot be excluded, in view increasing commie propaganda support Marquetalia, that other zones (El Pato, Riochiquito, Sumapaz) may begin diversionary operations when situation begins tighten on Marulanda. In such event, contingency planning requires mobility provided by additional helicopters which could be tactically diverted to provide temporary punitive reaction of sort employed with success in northern Tolima anti-bandit campaign. In order provide best chance of GOC success we firmly convinced additional helicopters needed now.Telegram from Bogota Embassy to Secretary of State, April 25, 1964 Notorious bandit Jacinto Cruz Usma alias Sangrenegra and minor outlaws Aguila Negra, Malasuerte, and Tarzancito killed today by policement near El Cairo, Valle. Killing followed three-day running battle in Choco, Valle, and Caldas between bandits, police and army ferried to scene by MAP helicopters. ... Sangrenegra most feared bandit operating in Colombia and responsible hundreds deaths northern Tolima. Death occurred on;y a few weeks after army and police killed notorious bandit Desquite who had terrorized same region. Sangrenegra's death leaves Noel Lombana alias Tarzan as only big-name outlaw operating northern Tolima. Telegram from Bogotá Embassy to Secretary of State, April 28, 1964
All Washington agencies share Embassy's desire provide continued support Colombian anti-bandit campaign in most vigorous possible way and agree that Colombian effort against small Communist affiliated enclaves represents next logical stage this campaign. Telegram from State/DOD to Bogota Embassy, May 1, 1964
Military units already in position Marquetalia and adjoining regions and have begun civic action and psychological operations. Communists and other extremists have campaign underway to "defend Marquetalia". There even reports of as yet undetermined veracity of Cuban arms shipment intended for Marquetalia. Colombian papers also reporting Soviet endorsement "violent revolution" those parts LA where such measures justified. Thus, we have situation in which GOC prestige absolutely committed to reduction "Tiro Fijo" influence Marquetalia and communists increasingly committed prevent this. As Dept aware, GOC action against communist areas was made integral part of Internal Defense Plan approved by Special Group (CI) in 1962 and urged by US on Colombian Government.Telegram from Bogota Embassy to Secretary of State, May 8, 1964
In the past year the Colombian armed forces and police have been remarkably successful in reducing banditry in the northern Tolima region. To a significant degree this success has resulted from the provision of medium helicopters under the Military Assistance Program. The President of Colombia has now requested extraordinary assistance to deal with a new phase of the Colombian counter-banditry campaign. The Colombian Government has stepped up its timetable and is preparing to expand its operations to include a campaign against well-established communist-led bandit groups in a new area of Colombia. ... It is of priority importance that the momentum of the Colombian campaign not falter. I believe that we should continue to provide them with every reasonable encouragement and assistance. In view of the facts of this case and the Presidential request, I feel that the fulfillment of our political objectives in Colombia requires the provision of these helicopters.Letter from Asst. Sec. of State to Deputy Asst. Sec. of Defense, May 11, 1964
Valencia Denies "Man Hunting" in Marquetalia Campaign, May 14, 1964
In Tolima State (rugged mountainous region mid-way between Bogotá and Cali in the Cauca Valley) there have been two trouble spots -- a bandit (criminal) area in the north, and a communist-bandit "enclave" in the south (an area known as Marquetalia). The latter is the most active and strongest communist "enclave" of 4 or 5 scattered through Colombia.
Because criminal bandits have been responsible for more deaths and greater brutality in recent years than have been the communist-led outlaw groups (which have killed largely for political reasons), the GOC has been moving more energetically in trying to wipe out the bandit groups than in fighting the communist bands.
Within the past 3 months the Colombian Army has killed the two leading bandit chiefs in northern Tolima ("Desquite" and "Sangre Negra"), and the GOC has announced the "pacification" of that area. (Actually, the bandit groups, while seriously hurt, are still moderately active, and army units, plus helicopters, must remain in northern Tolima to finish the job.)
With the recent successes against the bandits in northern Tolima, the army's enthusiasm and morale is high, and its plans to move against the communist-led bandit "enclave" in southern Tolima have been speeded up. The GOC has announced an immediate clean-up operation against the "enclave" and its prestige, as well as that of the army, is now committed to an early and effective campaign. Moreover, the communist groups, made up in part by escaped criminals and political prisoners, well-armed and firmly entrenched in the area, has become more active in terrorizing the region in an attempt to discourage the GOC from moving against it.
Our National Policy Paper on Colombia (presently in final draft) sets forth one of our principal objectives as the elimination of the potential for subversive insurgency inherent in the continued existence of active bandit groups, guerrilla bands, and communist-dominated "enclaves".Helicopters for Colombia, May 14, 1964
On 1 May 1964, the Embassy emphasized its previous position stating that the campaign against the communist enclaves was prompted by increased activity and fear that communists would be successful in uniting the enclaves. The campaign was an integral part of the Internal Defense Plan approved by the Special Group (CI) and urged on the Colombian Government by the United States.History of Colombian Request for Helicopters, circa May 14, 1964
Telegram from Bogota Embassy to Secretary of State, May 18, 1964
United States Army Reveals Participation in Exterminating Violence in Colombia, UPI, May 20, 1964
The following is an account of the death of Sangre Negra, as received from the National Police. Monthly Report of Public Safety Division, Colombia, May 26, 1964
Since the last report on the Colombian Internal Defense Plan (IDP) was completed on January 20, 1964, progress toward bringing basically apolitical, criminal banditry under control has been very encouraging. In the short period of three months, such notorious bandoleros as "Desquite," "Sangrenegra," and "Tarzan" were brought to bay and eliminated, the first two by police patrols and the last by the army. In addition, a number of other prominent criminals of the second and third rank were either killed or captured, with the result that Colombian officials began to see the beginning of the end of what to them had been a shameful chapter in the history of their country.
Rapid progress against the "orthodox" or largely apolitical criminals, plus increased and offensive activity on the part of communist or communist-influenced denizens of the area known as Marquetalia in southern Tolima and northern Huila, caused the GOC to turn its attention to the "independent republics" of Marxist persuasion within its borders. Because of its size and because of the renewed depredations of the communists which it sheltered, Marquetalia was selected as the first target for government action against an area dominated in large part by subversive elements. Had it not been for the success enjoyed in other violence areas, it seems doubtful that the GOC military would have considered itself capable of a campaign against Marquetalia at this time, but elation at progress made and irritation at the insolence, as well as the criminal deeds emanating from Marquetalia, stimulated a decision to attack this region which languished under the military direction of Pedro Antonio MARIN, aka Manuel MARULANDA ("Tiro Fijo") and the political guidance of an old communist from Sumapaz, Issauro YOSSA ("Mayor Lister").Progress report on the Colombian Internal Defense Plan (IDP), July 1, 1964
City of Cúcuta, August 31, Fabio Isaza, alias "El Mico" (the little monkey) was killed by the National Police in Cúcuta after an intensive two week investigation prompted by the recent pattern of armed robberies in the vicinity. ... On the morning of August 31, National Police in civilian clothes were stationed strategically about the block where El Mico was suspected to be living. At 8:00 a.m., a man fitting his description and wearing colored glasses emerged from a house with a female. All personnel were alerted by radio, and an unmarked car containing the F-2 captain, two agents and the driver cruised by. El Mico, recognizing the car, drew his revolver and opened fire on it, at the same time dispensing with gallantry by putting an arm lock around the neck of the woman companion and putting her in front of him as a shield. The crew in the car had opened fire and the woman fell first, then El Mico. The woman died instantly; however, El Mico was taken to the hospital in the police car where he died at 10:10 a.m. after refusing the sacrament offered by a priest. Monthly Report of Public Safety Division, Colombia, August 1964
From the standpoint of concentrated firepower, organization and rapid movement, the National Police is no match for the Military Forces. Therefore, in terms of effective force which is can bring to bear in a given situation, the National Police constitutes only a limited threat to the Army and would constitute such a threat even though it had not expanded role in Colombia. Furthermore, it is only fitting that the Police should assume responsibility for those police functions which the Army has carried out in the violence areas. This is expected, and it will not alter the essential balance of power between the Police and the Army. In the past the Police had a very poor reputation indeed, and, as mentioned in Section 54 of the NIS on Colombia, many police agents were considered worse than the criminals they were trying to arrest. Police intervention at the behest of politicians, both Liberal and Conservative, also severely damaged the reputation of this law-enforcement agency, as did its misuse by ex-Dictator Gustavo ROJAS Pinilla.Changes in the Role of National Police; DAS; Judicial Reform, November 2, 1964
Secret USAID report on Colombia, November 19, 1964
Briefing for DOD and ARA Officials on Vietnam Village Radio System, February 17, 1965
Our first objective in Colombia is to prevent overthrow of constitutional government especially if there is a chance that golpe may result which would bring to top undesirable extremist elements on either side. Our second objective is to get government to institute necessary reforms and adopt such other measures as necessary to assure its longer term stability.Secret telegram from Dean Rusk to Bogota Embassy, May 22, 1965
Northern Tolima, traditionally most violence-torn Colombian region, now being declared pacified by high civil military leaders following elimination bandit Noel Lombana alias Tarzan by Batallion Colombia troops Saturday. Tarzan was last remaining big name bandit operating this area an death followed closely those of colleagues Desquite and Sangrenegra killed in army-police operations last several weeks.
During the past six months central government forces have slowly but surely consolidated their occupation of the Marquetalia region, formerly ruled by the Communist (PCC) bandit Pedro Antonio MARIN Velez or Manuel MARULANDA (alias "Tirofijo"). Nevertheless, it is uncertain whether the Army has succeeded in winning over the populace in this area, and it has not completely accomplished the objective of discouraging the inhabitants from assisting scattered bandits, both "Tirofijo's" organization and other bandit groups in southern Tolima. A wave of kidnappings of wealthy persons in the cities, towns and rural areas was one of the most remarkable features of the public order situation in Colombia in the first half of 1965. ... The most serious urban disorder in the first half of 1965 was the student riots which took place in Medellín, Bogotá, Barranquilla and other cities during the month of May. The disorders grew out of demonstrations organized by the extremist-controlled university student association (FUN) in protest against United States intervention in the Dominican Republic ... During the first six months of 1965, 34 bombs of various types, but mostly of dynamite, were placed or exploded in Colombia. The bombings were sporadic, and there seemed to be no attempt to maintain a sustained bomb-terrorist campaign approaching those of 1963 and 1964. During this period a time bomb was placed in the Embassy, a bomb destroyed a car belonging to the United States Military Mission, and a bomb exploded next door to Milgroup headquarters in the Ministry of War. ... The organizations principally responsible for these bombing attacks were the ELN and the PCC-ML.Progress Report on the Colombian Internal Defense Plan (IDP), August 15, 1965
Conversation with Allegedly Coup-Prone Colonel José Joaquín MATALLANA, September 19, 1965
[President Valencia] expressed pride in what his regime had accomplished against bandits and communists. Had just received info which made him confident Tirofijo might well be caught before August 7. This info was to effect Tirofijo's men had disbanded and he had gone over to deal with being more open. Plan was to cover area with military and chances of apprehending bandit within two or three weeks very good. (Comment: President has been overly sanguine in past re imminence of elimination Tirofijo).
Army commanding General Ayerbe Chaux announced yesterday that armed forced succeeded in occupying communist zone of Riochiquito on Huila-Cauca border on September 16. Said order was given for this action because region's communist boss Ciro Castano had harbored Tirofijo and his men, that Tirofijo's assault on the town of Inza last march was launched from Riochiquito, and that there had been a series of attacks on military outposts surrounding the region for some weeks. Ayerbe hinted that a deal had been made with Castano to allow the government to insinuate its authority in the region gradually with the civic action, agrarian reform and credit, school building etc, without the use of force, but tha Castano had double-crossed government by his recent depredeations.
Communique also stated that helicopters had landed troops in the region despite heavy groundfire and that combined armed bands of Castano and Tirofijo had fled to the highlands.
Embassy understand from military sources that about 250 armed men chased into the hills. Air strikes against fleeing bands reportedly infliced light casualties. Some 5000 Indians reportedly live in area and most had voluntarily accepted Castano as leader. It therefore believed that pacification of region will be as difficult as in Marquetalia with large scale action and public relations programs necessary. Meanwhile, danger now exists of public order incidents from combined forces Tirofijo and Castano if not apprehended.Telegram from Ambassador Oliver to Secretary of State, September 17, 1965
Confidential telegram from Bogotá Embassy to Secretary of State, June 4, 1966
Commanding General Armed Forces June 28 told me he did not expect capture Tirofijo prior end Valencia administration. Said Tirofijo not now in Cauca but had moved to difficult area between Sumapaz and Llanos. Was confident bandit would be caught in time as others had been but did not believe this imminent owing protection he receives from peasants.Confidential telegram from Bogotá Embassy to Secretary of State, July 1, 1966
In 1958 the National Front coalition government converted the civil war -- La Violencia -- from one pitting Liberals vs. Conservatives, into a war between the oligarquia bipartidista and rural bandoleros unwilling to give up their arms. The bandoleros were divided: Mariachi, for example, joined in the National Front while Chispas remained an outlaw.
In 1959, the Cuban revolution added yet another dimension to the conflict, particularly in the eyes of the United States. The US encouraged South American nations to reorient their militaries toward preventing communists from gaining a foothold.Marquetalia in Context, February 22, 2002
Los programas fueron basados en el concepto familiar de la zanahoria y el palo - incentivos y amenazas. Los incentivos fueron compuestos de acciones "civil-militar" - pienso que hoy en día, se llama "desarrollo alternativo." El propósito mayor de ellos estaba encaminado a mitigar las condiciones intolerables del pueblo descontento, y a proyectar una imagen positiva del Ejército y el Gobierno. Otro propósito menos conocido, pero no menos importante, era la recopilación de información sobre las actividades de personas consideradas como subversivos.
Se desarrolló un nuevo plan de seguridad conocido como el Plan Lazo. Se apoyaba básicamente en la utilización de equipos de cazadores-asesinos para exterminar a los bandoleros / comunistas. La Historia Secreta de Colombia, Charla en la Universidad de la Sabana, March 20, 2002
Colombia was the first country in Latin America where the United States began to put into action the new anti-guerrilla strategies that had been evolved during the first years of the Kennedy administrations. Gilberto Vieira has left an account of the stages into which the strategy was dividedThe Fall of Marquetalia, by Richard Gott , (La Caída de Marquetalia en español)
Phase one. Preparation and organization. Once the troops have been trained in antiguerrilla action, spies are sent into the area and informers recruited. For this purpose, 'civil-military action' is organized, in which the army appears under the guise of a benefactor, bringing presents to the peasants (clothes, medical supplies, American food from Care and Caritas), medical and dental services, bridge-building, roads and schools.
Phase two. A larger-scale programme of psychological action is then put into operation, using the factor of surprise. Measures are taken to control the civil population. This is the first stage in setting up a blockade of the area.
Phase three. The next operations try to isolate the armed rebel groups in order to destroy them.
Phase four. The armed rebel movement is systematically divided, using psychological techniques. Advantage is taken of internal splits, resulting from political differences, the ambitions of the leaders, human weaknesses, or mistakes by the guerrilla command. This is an attempt to win over those who would be likely to carry on the guerrilla struggle.
Phase five. The final stage is the economic, political and social 'reconstruction' of the zone of operations, using the American aid that was previously used to destroy the area.
Perhaps the most notable military aspect of Plan LAZO, however, was the adoption of counterguerrilla warfare techniques that were highly dependent on sophisticated intelligence-gathering and analysis. ... Army tactical units acquired a 'comando localizador,' or unconventional warfare shock group, which clandestinely killed or captured guerrilla and bandit leaders. In addition, Mobile Intelligence Groups (grupos moviles de inteligencia) were attached to all major operating units. Their activities seem to have included counter-guerrilla work similar to the comando localizador, as well as information-gathering.
In April 1964 a Military Intelligence Battalion was created to undertake combat intelligence, counter-intelligence, and special operations, and to assist in coastal surveillance and internal security operations against infiltration of agents, 'provocateurs', arms, and propaganda. It was also utilised to find, destroy, or eliminate communist and extremist activities through a network of clandestine agents.
Probing actions against the enclaves accelerated after Plan LAZO was developed. A long-term strategy was adopted and implemented in five phases:
Guerrillas, Bandits, and Independent Republics: US Counter-insurgency Efforts in Colombia 1959-1965, by Dennis M. Rempe
(1) counter-guerrilla training was given to security forces, civic action programmes were initiated, security personnel were infiltrated into guerrilla groups, and informers were recruited;
(2) psychological operations were undertaken in order to establish control over the civilian population;
(3) operations were initiated to blockade specific areas and isolate guerrilla groups from their sources of support and intelligence;
(4) in-place informers and infiltrators were used to splinter the internal cohesion of the guerrilla groups and ongoing offensive counterinsurgency operations coupled with psychological warfare were undertaken to destroy guerrilla units and leadership;
(5) operational zones were reconstructed economically, socially, and politically under the auspices of US aid programmes.
El Plan Lazo, contra el cual arremete la izquierda beligerante, se diseñó por el comando del Ejército a órdenes del general Ruiz Novoa dentro de tales criterios. No fue inspirado por el Pentágono ni se dirigió contra el pueblo colombiano sino a su favor. No se entregaron los 500 millones de pesos de que habla el patriarca de Hommes. No se arremetió contra Marquetalia con los 16 mil hombres de la leyenda negra. Se emplearon tres batallones (1.500 hombres) que ocuparon las zonas circunvecinas para sustraerlas al influjo del patriarca, mientras una fracción de infantería avanzó por el cañón del río Atá, atrayendo a 'Tirofijo' al inexpugnable sitio de Juntas, en tanto el teniente coronel Joaquín Matallana descendía en audaz asalto desde helicópteros en vuelo para apoderarse del caserío sin un tiro.Clepsidra: Leyenda negra de Marquetalia, por Alvaro Valencia Tovar
Real Audio Interview with General Alvaro Valencia Tovar, March 23, 2002 Part 1 *
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Los feroces bombardeos estilo Viet Nam contra los campesinos sublevados en la
región de Marquetalia, al sur del país, fueron suficientes para evitar que el embajador
oprimiera el botón de pánico. Aviones de la Fuerza Aérea de Colombia lanzaron
bombas en la zona que dejaron cráteres de 20 metros de diámetro y diezmaron
sustancialmente a los alzados en armas. Bajo la dirección de los militares
estadounidenses, los colombianos dieron de baja a conocidos líderes bandoleros
como ``Sangre Negra'', ``Tarzán'', ``Puente Roto'', ``Puñaladas'', ``Desquite'' y ``Pedro
Brincos''. Pero no pudieron eliminar a un tal Manuel Marulanda Vélez, alias ``Tirofijo'',
un campesino que tenía una rara afición por la esgrima y tocaba violín.
Los feroces bombardeos estilo Viet Nam contra los campesinos sublevados en la región de Marquetalia, al sur del país, fueron suficientes para evitar que el embajador oprimiera el botón de pánico. Aviones de la Fuerza Aérea de Colombia lanzaron bombas en la zona que dejaron cráteres de 20 metros de diámetro y diezmaron sustancialmente a los alzados en armas. Bajo la dirección de los militares estadounidenses, los colombianos dieron de baja a conocidos líderes bandoleros como ``Sangre Negra'', ``Tarzán'', ``Puente Roto'', ``Puñaladas'', ``Desquite'' y ``Pedro Brincos''. Pero no pudieron eliminar a un tal Manuel Marulanda Vélez, alias ``Tirofijo'', un campesino que tenía una rara afición por la esgrima y tocaba violín.Washington Planeó Intervenir en 1965, por Gerardo Reyes