“ফার্কের মধ্যে নারী গেরিলা যোদ্ধারা স্বীকৃতি অর্জন করেছেন”- নারী গেরিলা কমান্ড্যান্ট এরিকা মন্তেরো

Pastor-Erika

কলম্বিয়ার মার্ক্সবাদী সশস্ত্র গেরিলা গোষ্ঠী ফার্কের নারী গেরিলা কমান্ড্যান্ট এরিকা মন্তেরোর সাক্ষাৎকার

Coming from the banana plantations, a young Erika left with a backpack full of dreams for the jungle of Urabá to join the FARC-EP’s 5th Front.

It was the 6th of June 1978 and she left in the hope to find a life beyond the persecution by the then government of Turbay Ayala and his Security Statute. Erika is today a veteran guerrilla combatant, Comandante of the Block Ivan Rios, in Havana as a member of both the Technical Sub-Committee — which is to address the third item on the Agenda “End of Conflict” — and the Gender Sub-Commission.

With a soft and reflective voice and the same uncomplicated nature of 37 years ago, she answers questions poised by the FARC Women’s Editorial.

M.F.: What was behind your decision to join the Guerrilla Movement?

Erika Montero: I was a militant of the Communist Youth. The Turbay government had begun to persecute the entire popular movement. A State of Emergency had been declared under the Security Statute which granted the President the authority to establish Military Commands and Mayor Offices, to judge popular leaders in verbal war councils by special judges with covered faces, known as faceless justice.

This persecution affected trade unionists, youth and agrarian leaders and community organizers and so rather than face such uncertainty I decided to apply for membership of the FARC guerrilla movement.

M.F.: How were you received and what is that you recall about that moment?

EM: I was received by the legendary Comandante Efrain Guzman who, along with other comrades, welcomed me most fraternally. A number of young men and women wondered if I would feel happy there, they did not think I would persevere. There were other women guerrillas there also, I especially remember Tania. She was very adept in the mountains and at ground management. She moved without any technical instrumentation, she was excellent at reconnaissance, a kind of natural prodigy. I immediately became involved in the daily camp routine; study, cooking, military training, transporting food, guard duty and living my life as a guerrilla fighter.

M.F.: How many other women guerrillas were there and what became of them?

EM: At that stage there were six in the entire Front, including Tania, who would fall in combat later on. The rest were discharged, some due to illness, others had babies and did not reintegrate and others relocated to the city. Many had left before 1984. Then, as now, the women carried the same weight as men and worked as they did but they tended not to stay as long in the ranks. This is why, when I asked to become a member they were reluctant to grant it because I am sure I seemed somewhat feeble.

M.F.: How did your male counterparts treat you and the rest of the women?

EM: We were always treated with respect and camaraderie, although some comrades did think that having women within their commands might delay maneuvers because they did not consider us capable of marching with them or of engaging in combat. This was to some degree a form of discrimination, we had to demonstrate that we could in practice do so. This has all changed today, nobody would now dream of suggesting that they did not want a woman within their command. The opposite is now the case, when we are not assigned to a command, the unit comandantes ask why there are no women. We are integrated into every unit and command now and fulfill every duty. We have gained recognition today.

M.F.: What was the most challenging moment of your life as a guerrilla combatant?

EM: The most difficult moment was when I was captured on the 16th of April, 2001. The first thing that crosses ones mind is to be prepared to die, so I prepared myself for whatever might happen. But the most difficult was the interrogation I was subjected to by general Eduardo Herrera Berbel, commander of the 4th Brigade; he began by trying to be persuasive, offering me lunch, fruit and immediately then began to demand that I talk, that I should reevaluate my life, think of my grand-daughter. That if I did not talk I would be reminded of the Uraba “ReturnPlan”.He threatened me that the same thing that had happened to Maria, a 5th Front guerrilla fighter and sister-in-law of Comandante Jacobo Arango, who during these same days had been captured and cut into pieces by paramilitaries from the Gaula from Medellin.

They asked me about other guerrilla fighters. Those 36 hours in the Brigade seemed like hell on earth to me, until they at last transferred me to the Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd) prison in Medellín.

Pastor-Erika.jpg

M.F.: What was your experience in prison like?

EM: I felt a bit more relieved when I arrived at the prison, I was welcomed by the other prisoners who received me. I involved myself in political prisoners activism, in a party cell, we did guerrilla gym exercises and the common convicts kept look-out while we exercised. We once organized a mutiny during which we presented a raft of petitions regarding improvements in health and food conditions and against mistreatment and conditions relating to work for the reductionof sentences.

Once our protest ended, reprisals were swift and all the comrades with whom we had engaged in the protest were transferred. I was released from prison on the 3rd December 2003. Since then, many things have come to pass, we have lost brave comrades, we had had some very tough times but none compare to my capture.

M.F.: You mentioned that during your interrogation that general Herrera Berbel referred to your grand-daughter. Do you have family in the ranks?

EM: I do, yes. My husband, we complement each other, we have been together for 36 years. We are a guerrilla family, we have a daughter who in turn has a daughter – our granddaughter. They have suffered similar persecution, constant harassment and threats — like all my family — because of our membership to the organization.

As this interview for Mujer Fariana is drawing to a close, Erika recalls the words of her father, who wrote her a letter 20 days after she had joined the movement, “my daughter, the path you have chosen brings with it agreat degree of responsibility and all I ask from you is that you never become a traitor, there are many courageous people there…”.

These are the words that came to mind when she fell into enemy hands. In his youth, her father was a liberal inspired by Gaitan and a guerrilla fighter from the 50’s who was known as Charro Negro. Some time into her time in the ranks she learned that Charro was in fact Jacobo Prias Alape, a communist guerrilla who had fought alongside Manuel Marulanda.

In closing, Erika expressed her emphatic belief “in the future, because we represent an alternative that together with people can effect change. They can never kill our hopes, we will achieve them”.

”Plan Retorno” en Uraba was what the Colombian State called their declaration of war against the population that had organized in the bananera area. This involved selective assassination, massacres and disappearances by military and paramilitary forces to wipe out the popular movement in what was then conflict zone where the revolutionary left, through both the Patriotic Union and the Colombian Communist Party, was very influential.

English Translation Courtesy of Sean Joseph Clancy

Source – www.mujerfariana.org



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