A sad story, which on one level can be attributed to a clash of
cultures, in which the European settlers either were unconscious of how
their life-style would be viewed, or were conscious of the impression
they were making and thought it to be a positive thing. I ran into
situations like this during my time in the Middle East in 1970 which
Europeans, all 60s vets, while expressing solidarity with the
Palestinians, consciously broke local cultural traditions, because they
didn't want to be repressed.
That being said, one should have no romantic notions about the FARC. For
the indigenous peoples of Colombia, they are fundamentally no different
from the army or the paramilitaries, in their treatment.
We witnessed this problem during the Contra war when the Sandinistas
came into conflict with the Moskito indians on the Nicaraguan East Coast
and failed, initially, to recognize that the Moskitos, as an indigenous
people, had any rights the traditionally Marxist Sandinistas had to
respect. After considerable discussion and criticism from the outside,
the Sandinistas had their consciousness raised.
The FARC, apparently, is not nearly as radical politically as were the
Sandinistas, and it would be a mistake to link opposition to US
intervention in Colombia with support for the FARC or for for the ELN,
because, if nothing else, we're not Colombian.
> MIAMI HERALD
> Sunday, 28 January 2001
> Commune leader claims rebels killed grandson
> By Margarita Martinez
> PACHO, Colombia -- They came looking for paradise in the Andes and found
> disillusionment and death.
> For Jenny James and the little band of starry-eyed followers who arrived
> in Colombia in 1989 from a commune in Ireland, the verdant mountains of
> the southern part of the country seemed perfect -- so much so they
> abandoned their original plan to settle in Bolivia, to the south.
> James, then 46, found a revolutionary fervor that appealed to her in the
> hinterlands of Colombia, where guerrillas have waged a war against the
> government since the 1960s under the banners of agrarian reform and
> justice for the poor. Her own leftist activism was born of the social
> revolt of the '60s.
> ``I was impressed by the people's high level of political consciousness,''
> she recalled in an interview on a farm in Pacho, 30 miles from Bogota,
> Colombia's capital.
> James had begun her search for a new life with ``primal scream'' therapy
> in her native England and ran a commune at Burtonport in Ireland's County
> Donegal before coming to Colombia.
> Lived on rebel land
> Pursuing free love and back-to-the-roots living, her Atlantis commune
> bought land in the rebel-controlled mountains of Tolima state. Reaching
> the commune near the town of Icononzo, 50 miles southwest of Bogota,
> required hours of walking and sometimes a machete to clear overgrown
> James and the others, including Ann Barr, a commune member from County
> Donegal who earns cash for the group as an astrologer to Bogota's
> well-to-do, lived in simple wooden houses and tended vegetable plots some
> 6,600 feet above sea level.
> The commune members freely exchanged sexual partners and raised several
> children with no formal education but a love for art and nature.
> To many, life seemed idyllic. At its height in the mid-1990s, it had about
> 60 residents.
> But Atlantis' peaceful illusions were shattered by the slayings of two of
> its teenagers -- one of them James' own grandson -- allegedly by leftist
> guerrillas. The killings happened last July, but details only recently
> James described how the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as
> FARC, turned against her group -- and she against them.
> For 10 years, relations were harmonious, she said. Then, two years ago,
> the rebels abruptly expelled a group of about a dozen Atlantis members
> that had branched out onto lands in Caqueta province, about 190 miles
> south of Bogota.
> The FARC never explained its action, but James believes the group's
> mistrust of foreigners was growing as the United States increased military
> aid to Colombia to help counter the rebels.
> The guerrillas had become ``like a domesticated wild animal,'' she said.
> ``We lived close to them for several years, but you never know when they
> are going to take a swipe at you.''
> Relations between the Atlantis commune and the FARC worsened.
> In mid-1999, FARC rebels expelled Atlantis' nearly two dozen remaining
> members from Icononzo, its original base. James fled with her closest kin,
> 15-year-old daughter Katie and 19-year-old grandson Tristan, to a farm in
> Pacho where a friend raises honey bees.
> They never returned
> While at Pacho, Tristan got an itch to see Ireland, which he had left as a
> young boy. Before making the trip, however, he went back to Icononzo to
> say goodbye to a half brother living in the town.
> The youth, tall and blonde with a talent for acting and juggling, never
> returned. Nor did his traveling companion, 19-year-old Javier Nova, a
> child of one of the handful of Colombians belonging to Atlantis.
> James said witnesses told of seeing drunken rebels take the youths away.
> The two reportedly were ``tried'' and convicted of collaborating with
> right-wing paramilitary groups. They were then killed with machetes and
> their bodies burned, James said.
> Police said they had conducted preliminary investigations into the youths'
> ``disappearances.'' The case has not been classified as murder yet
> because no corpses have been found.
> A spokesman for the British Embassy, Johnny Welsh, said the Atlantis
> commune called the diplomatic mission and denounced the FARC, but ``prefer
> not to deal with the establishment'' and didn't ask for diplomatic
> The FARC did not respond to repeated efforts by journalists to obtain
> their version of events.
> The dozen Atlantis members who remain in Colombia insist they will stay in
> the country. James is trying to pick up the pieces of Atlantis' broken
> dream, but the whole episode has shaken her faith in nonviolence.
> ``In the 1960s everything was very clear to me,'' she said. ``I don't know
> how to be a pacifist anymore.''
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Thu Feb 01 2001 - 17:55:28 EST