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Colombia Celebrates 42 Years of Civil War

Posted November 20, 2006

When you consider the war-torn regions of the world, you think Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan. It's easy to forget that the longest continual civil war, you don't have to look farther than the edge of South American. Colombia has quietly established the global record as military hotspot, recently marking their endless conflict with a 42nd birthday. I sat down with the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and Trinidad, press secretary for the rebel movement FARC, to learn more about their groundbreaking struggle.

ADC: First of all, I'd like to congratulate you on your anniversary. Is that your silver anniversary or something?

Trinidad: Topaz.

Uribe: Emerald.

ADC: It's really exciting to have you here. Forty-two years together is a long time for anyone, especially when you're mired in violent struggle.

Trinidad: I never thought it could go on this long. We really should have wrested power from the fascists by now.

Uribe: I always tell you that, but you won't listen.

ADC: You started this war in the early sixties, so you are from that generation civil rights, Vietnam. How do you make yourself relevant to today?

Uribe: We've tried to keep up with the times. Paramilitary death squads that didn't start in Iraq. That was us.

Trinidad: Kidnappings. We totally wrote the book on kidnappings. Plus our involvement with the drug trade. Say what you want, but we aren't stuck in a rut.

ADC: When you look at all the actors in the current civil war, you have FARC, the CIA, the Colombian Government, the drug dealers, the right wing paramilitary death squads there are more players than in the Wu Tang Clan. How do you keep that together?

Uribe: It's an organic process. It's not an "I shoot you, you shoot me." It's more "I shoot you, you shoot another guy, then a fourth guy shoots me."

Trinidad: A creative use of anarchy.

ADC: How did it all start?

Trinidad: Back in the day, in Nineteen Sixty-Four, we were just dissatisfied kids. We'd take over a police station, then the government would strafe a village.

Uribe: And before you know it, full scale, endless conflict.

ADC: It's so impressive. Does it bother you that you don't get the attention from some more recent conflicts?

Uribe: Sure. These days all the talk about disintegrating nation-states focuses on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Trinidad: The Afghans have been at this for a long time, sure, like since the seventies. But they don't have the longevity. They fight for a while, then it stops, then it starts up again. Uribe: Afghanistan is like the Fleetwood Mac of violent struggle.

ADC: And it's only fair I don't want to seem obsequious, but you are like the Keith and Mick of bloodsoaked tumult.

Trinidad: We appreciate that.

ADC: Do you ever consider stopping? Like just going back home and raising families?

Uribe: You can't fight all the time.

Trinidad: We take breaks. But this is what we do.

ADC: One last question. There are rumors of peace talks, United Nations interventions. Think you'll make it to fifty?

Uribe: It isn't about the numbers. It's a hard call. Even prancing around the world stage, forty-two years of continuous war, you start to wonder if you look a little ridiculous. If we're still doing this at fifty, it might seem a little sad.

Trinidad: You're only as old as you act. We could definitely make it to fifty. Viva la lucha!



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