Colombia: FARC guerrillas rap for peace

The Colombian FARC guerrilla movement and the Cuban band “Cuentas Claras” have produced a rap video entitled “Pueblo Colombiano pa’ la mesa” (Colombian people, go…
Colombia: FARC guerrillas rap for peace

Dutch rebel Tanja Nijmeijer, center, from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, sings a tribute to FARC founder Manuel Marulanda, on the sixth anniversary of his death, in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Colombian government and the FARC delegates continue their peace talks in Havana. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes)

The Colombian FARC guerrilla movement and the Cuban band “Cuentas Claras” have produced a rap video entitled “Pueblo Colombiano pa’ la mesa” (Colombian people, go to the negotiation table) featuring two well-known FARC fighters.

The song praises the FARC for seeking equality and peace in Colombia, while criticizing the government for endangering the ongoing peace talks in Havana, Cuba.

While the song will not win any Latin Grammys, it is a public diplomacy tool aimed at helping the Colombian narco-insurgents gain popularity.

FARC raps

“Pueblo Colombiano” includes not just the members of the Cuentas Claras group, but also Tanja Nijmeijer, a Dutch citizen who became a FARC fighter and is a member of the insurgent movement’s negotiation team at the talks in Cuba. In fact, she appears at the start of the video, calling Havana “the peace capital of the continent.”

Depicting himself as a joyful field worker, one of FARC’s founding fathers, Miguel Pascuas, also known as “Sargeant Pascuas,” also made a guest appearance. (The U.S. State Department offers a $2.5million reward for information leading to his arrest).

As for the lyrics and the video itself, it can be summarized as FARC propaganda. In general the lyrics praise the narco-insurgents; some verses state that the FARC came to Cuba to speak in favor of “shoeless kids” and “peasants who live under threat.”

On the other hand, “they,” meaning the Colombian government, are accused of protecting their “businesses,” “covering up the truth,” and keeping the people “ignorant.” One verse implies that the Colombian government unjustly accuses the FARC of hindering the ongoing peace negotiations. The video briefly shows images of police officers (arguably Colombian), beating up an unidentified person who is lying on a street.

Revolutionary music

The FARC-Cuentas Claras video is certainly not the first public relations stunt in which a revolutionary movement has resorted to music in order to improve their public image. Some songs have remained popular over the decades if they praise a popular hero.

Case in point is “Hasta Siempre” a song written by Carlos Puebla in 1965 which praises the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who had left Cuba in order to organize revolutionary movements in Latin America. Two years later Guevara was killed by the Bolivian Army.

Additionally, in the 1990s Sub-comandante Marcos, the leader of the Zapatista movement, requested the Spanish artist Joaquin Sabina to write a song for the non-violent Mexican movement. Sabin’s song is entitled “Como un Dolor de Muelas” (Like a Toothache).

Nowadays, even the powerful Mexican drug cartels have their own music bands. They perform songs praising the drug lords who control criminal networks, while also harassing their opponents. These “narco-corridos” have become both popular and deadly as it is not surprising nowadays to hear of a narco-singer that was murdered by a rival cartel.

One of the worst massacres occurred in January 2013, when all 14 members of the band Kombo Kolombia were murdered. Their songs praised the Zetas cartel and it is believed that the Gulf Cartel may be behind their deaths.

A discussion       

Colombia is scheduled to have presidential elections this upcoming Sunday, May 25. President Juan Manuel Santos is running for a second term and, even though his popularity has suffered over the past year, it is expected that he will emerge victorious.

Nevertheless, this victory will not be easy, as it is expected that the Colombian leader will have to go to a second electoral round against Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, of the Centro Democratico.

Santos’ re-electoral strategy was to achieve a permanent peace agreement with the FARC. But with peace negotiations well into their second year (they started in late 2012), it becomes disheartening to see only an agreement on a few issues as the only signs of progress in restoring social tranquility. In other words, it is blindly optimistic to imagine a peace agreement being reached before the upcoming elections.

The FARC high command, the Secretariat, knows that President Santos hoped for a positive outcome of the peace negotiations to assure his re-election. To what extent the FARC purposely stalled the negotiations to hurt President Santos is debatable. Solving a six-decade long civil war, in addition to a plethora of complexities involved, is certainly not something that is resolved overnight.

As for “Pueblo Colombiano,” the lyrics reflect the FARC’s ideology and critiques of the Colombian government. The addition of renowned fighters like Nijmeijer and historical leaders such as Pascuas is a jab at both Bogota and Washington.

It is likely that the FARC will continue to produce music videos. Certainly, songs are a quick and easy way for any entity, revolutionary or not, to gain popularity. Nevertheless, as catchy as “Pueblo Colombiano” may be, hopefully it will not win a Latin Grammy.