The life of Rodrigo Londoño after the end of Timochenko
is the headline of the news that the author of WTM News has collected this article. Stay tuned to WTM News to stay up to date with the latest news on this topic. We ask you to follow us on social networks.
Timochenko felt a tingling in his chest that made him put his hand to his heart. The rest of what happened he doesn’t remember. It was February 2015 and the leader of the FARC had just suffered a heart attack in the middle of the peace negotiations in Havana. He was dead for a long time, which put the dialogue in real danger. During his convalescence, another of the historical guerrilla fighters, Iván Márquez, insisted that he tell him what he had seen during that period, where he had gone. Márquez was a convinced spiritist who sought advice from the liberator Simón Bolívar through a medium. Timochenko was skeptical, but he wanted to please his comrade: “I arrived and met Marulanda (founder of the guerrilla) and he told me, listen to me, what did you come here to do? Do me a favor and come back. There is too much to do”.
In the following months, thousands of combatants, who had been up in arms against the Colombian government for half a century, came down from the mountains. Timochenko became Rodrigo Londoño again, his real name, the one he abandoned when he left home at the age of 17 without saying goodbye to his parents. He now lives on a farm on the outskirts of the town where he was born, La Tebaida, with a girlfriend and their son. “Peace was the only way, the other was suicide. Right now an armed project has no future”, he reflects. However, that other alternative was the one that Márquez opted for. In some of his conversations with the afterlife he deduced that his destiny was to once again wield a rifle in hiding. Almost everyone who accompanied him on that absurd adventure has been killed and the secret services are investigating whether Márquez himself is dead, after it became known that he had been seriously injured in Venezuela. Londoño received the news while celebrating the third birthday of his son.
The 63-year-old ex-guerrilla walks limping through the streets of his town due to a calcium problem in his bones. In the jungle he suffered from malaria and dengue fever, the classic diseases of combatants. But he has only been returning to his civilian life when he has resurfaced in failing health. He underwent open heart surgery and had six stents placed. Later he had gallbladder problems and suffered a stroke. Later, appendicitis. He lives under strict medical control. His countrymen see him in front and there are those who cross the sidewalk. The crimes committed by the FARC, which became the most powerful guerrilla in Latin America, have the face of his neighbor. Others, on the other hand, come to greet him.
“Man, Rodrigo. She hadn’t seen him since school.
—Germán, how nice to greet you. What happened to you?
—I became an accountant and then a painter. I saw you on television…
The young Londoño disappeared from town in the seventies. Many people didn’t know about him for decades. His family didn’t get much information either. Over the years he reappeared under the alias of Timochenko and heading a front of the FARC, a peasant guerrilla group with a Marxist-Leninist ideology. He would end up being the youngest member to belong to the dome. With the death of chief Alfonso Cano during a bombardment during the first contacts with President Juan Manuel Santos to seek peace, he was left in charge. He had to complete a historical process that had failed many times before. A cardiac arrest was about to throw everything to the fret. But he recovered, and carried through to the end the idea of demobilizing his comrades-in-arms.
Without the ghost of the guerrilla, the political left has stopped assimilating itself to violence. Colombia has passed for decades from one conservative government to another. The stigma of progressivism was very strong but that has changed in recent years and has culminated in the election as president of Gustavo Petro, another former M-19 guerrilla who also participated in his group’s peace process and later rewrote a new constitution. more progressive. Many consider that without those steps it would have been impossible for someone like Petro to be in power as of August.
“I insisted to my people that with peace a revolutionary situation would arise. This is not the revolution of January 1, 1959, which arrived with the rifle and the olive green uniform. They are different processes, they are different times. But this is revolution,” says Londoño. During the electoral campaign he wrote to the then candidate and his vice president, Francia Márquez, in case they wanted to participate in a meeting where he could show his vision of the country. “Petro was smart not to see me. I don’t feel upset that that photo wasn’t given. He would have stigmatized him a lot,” he adds.
The FARC became a party called Comunes. Society has not finished getting used to seeing guerrillas campaigning. His presence in the Colombian political scene is residual. Londoño is the president of the formation. Until 2026 they will have five senators guaranteed by the peace agreement. From there they will fly alone, and the expectations are not at all encouraging. “We would not have gotten that representation at the polls. That is a truth.” The group committed atrocities, including 96,952 homicides (the paramilitaries total 205,028). The ideals with which the armed struggle began disappeared completely.
His kidnapping policy was brutal. They kept people chained to a stick for years, waiting for families to pay millionaire ransoms. When they had no specific objectives, they would stand on the road and stop cars at random. They called it miraculous catches. Colombians stopped using the regional highways. The people of the city abandoned their houses in the countryside. Timochenko supported that form of financing. “I regret having done it. The debate arose. You can kidnap, but who? To a paramilitary who has capital and is worth it, yes. But those were the ones who never allowed themselves to be kidnapped. Then they would lay hands on the biggest jerk, one who appeared with five cows and we thought he had money. It was an injustice.” The guerrillas were also able to keep so many fighters on their payroll because of the boom in drug trafficking, which originated in areas under their control.
The laying down of arms was accompanied by a process of searching for the truth in which the military have also participated. Londoño has held meetings with hundreds of victims behind closed doors and in public hearings. Hearing the forgiveness of the guerrillas, who were immune to self-criticism and could justify any action with the excuse of waging a war, was a cathartic moment for the victims and Colombian society in general. Londoño assures that his repentance is sincere: “I break sometimes, although I make an effort not to cry. It’s not because of machismo, I’m afraid of making a fool of myself or that they think I’m faking it.”
A man who crosses the street, yells at him:
—Long live the People’s Army!—, in reference to the FARC.
“Imagine,” he replies incredulously, adjusting his glasses.
Later, when paying for lunch, the owner of the restaurant will say, looking at him sternly: “I should charge you double.”
He faces very serious proceedings against him that will be judged in the coming years by a special court that seeks to clarify what happened, but he will not face prison sentences as long as he collaborates. In the Catatumbo region, with one of the units he commanded, he killed 34 raspachines, as coca pickers are known. Londoño says that his men had the mission of attacking some paramilitaries, but they ended up seizing these workers. They rounded up all of them, about 90, and told them that if anyone tried to run away they would be shot. One of them tried to escape. The guerrillas began to shoot at close range. “They were miserably murdered people, without any justification. Talking to their mothers was painful. I was left in misery,” he says.
He also met privately with the widow of Guillermo Gaviria Correa, a former governor of the Antioquia region who was kidnapped by the FARC in 2002 and later killed. The woman gave him the memories of her husband.
—I went home and spent two or three nights reading it. It was tougher than the audience itself. He was a man of peace, why did we do that? I have the book underlined.
Demobilized combatants have not had an easy time reintegrating into normal life. They often can’t find work and real estate owners don’t want to rent to them. More than 300 of them have been killed. He too has seen death up close beyond heart attack. The same Márquez who was interested in his experience in the transition to the afterlife sent an elite commando two years ago to assassinate him. He called him a traitor. The police disrupted the plan and killed two of the guerrillas willing to finish off his former boss, Timochenko. They were going to kill a man who no longer existed. Londoño, in the patio of the house where he grew up, tells that story dispassionately, with a touch of sadness. He recruited Iván Márquez in 1982.
The last time he visited this house to see his parents, he had been living in hiding for four years. At the front was a store run by her mother. When she entered, she was attending to a police officer. Welcome, nephew, the woman told him, to mislead the authorities. “My mother is a conspirator,” she laughs. “I was afraid that she would beg me to stay, that I would not return to the fight.”
“What would you have answered?”
—The same, I would have stayed at home.
subscribe here to the EL PAÍS newsletter on Colombia and receive all the informative keys of the country’s current affairs.