We Women Warriors is a documentary about the indigenous groups being threatened by ongoing violence in Columbia. The protagonists are three women committed to non-violent resistance. I don’t know much about the conflict in Columbia, so I did a little reading to get a sense of what’s going on. I apologize for how poorly it went. I’m going to say that the shifting tenses and devolution from sentences into chopped phrases was for legitimate style reasons.
1948. Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a populist leader, was assassinated. He was running for president on the Liberal Party ticket. He was popular among low-income Columbians. His critics considered him a demagogue. The man who assassinated him was murdered by a mob. It’s unclear why he did it or why who may have been behind getting him to do it. He had a lot of political opponents—Communists, Conservatives, and, if I’m understanding the politics correctly, some of the more old-school members of his party—and, also, as generally happens in cases like this, and is not totally unreasonable, as it were, theories of the CIA’s involvement have been thrown around (Operation Pantomime). Some believe he was assassinated as part of a USSR plot involving Fidel Castro. Some believe the guy who allegedly murdered Gaitan didn’t murder him, that he was just paid to stand nearby holding a revolver while somebody else shot him. The point is we’re all over the place here. A riot (El Bogotazo) followed and several thousand people died. People tried to storm the palace of President Ospina. Bogota was in chaos.
1948-1958: There was a ten-year period of violence (La Violencia) between paramilitary forces of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 people died. A lot of the fighting took place in rural areas. In ‘54, amnesty was declared for those who had, and were, participating in the violence, which stemmed it some, and they appeared to have the lid back on in 1958 after a unity government was formed.
1960: The military of the unity government began attacking, at the urging of the United States, rural peasant with Communist sympathies. Probably, my instincts are telling me it could be argued, not our finest moment. This went on for several years. The peasants organized guerrilla groups, which later became FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia), one of the groups of combatants featured in the documentary. The government and the CIA organized counter-guerrilla groups. This continued for a long time.
1974: The fighting moves to the city. There was some election fraud and urban guerrilla groups formed. Simmers on and simmers off throughout the decade.
1984: Things had calmed down a bit, the Conservative government offered a cease fire. FARC accepted, but the EIN (another militant group similar to FARC) didn’t negotiate. Some militants had kind of become allied with drug lords, who were doing quite well for themselves through all of this, but they had also kind of not allied themselves with them; for instance, there was a lot of kidnapping and murdering going on, as, if movies have taught us anything, can become the case when drug lords are involved. The drug lords are also bribing and murdering public officials.
1985: Any semblance of what had been a cease-fire is called off. At this point, I’m not clear about what was happening. There are too many guerrilla groups to keep track of in my head. FARC, EIN, M-19. So just three, really, I guess. But in terms of who’s allied with who and why, your guess is as good as mine. FARC stays in peace talks. M-19 does not. Palaces are getting stormed, judges are being held hostage, the guys who are supposed to have been negotiating never actually disarmed. It’s chaos. And I’m not talking about the violence—I’m sure that was chaotic too—I’m just talking about the web of guerrilla groups. Are they fighting for land? Control of the drug trade? Communism? This primer on the Columbian armed conflict isn’t turning out to be helpful at all. I’m just going to phone the rest in.
1990’s: Cease-fires are broken, there are disagreements as to whether cease-fires were actually broken, Pablo Escobar is involved now, there’s a big assasination, and M-19 folks are in the peace process now. FARC steps up their armed-ness and they’re very much involved with coca farmers now.
2000’s: Murders, kidnappings, severe human rights violations. Massacres upon massacres upon massacres. Groups are officially labeled as terrorists. Colombian military goes after them hard with support from the United States. FARC started to lose momentum, so they had a plan called “Rebirth”—land mines, snipers, and bombing in cities.
2010 to Now: Now there are neo-paramilitary groups. They’re controlling large swathes of rural areas. They dress in civilian clothes and attack Colombian security personnel. The government continues to go after them.
And this is the mess these brave women of We Women Warriors find themselves in the middle of.