Chronicle of an Unsuccessful War

by Luis Carlos Peniche Garces

First place, nonfiction, Heard/Alexandria Detention Center writing contest, July 2023

In the convulsed and battle-hardened years of 1950-1960, when the dusty streets were crowded with trains of mules and horses, the fervor of thousands of compatriots mingled with the red-tinted and gallant blue flags, loud shouts and gnashing machetes in a “Long Live Colombia!”

Dissent and famine, and the lack of basic, necessary programs for the guarantee of survival, made up the daily bread of the Banana Republic.

With the vivid memory of the violent death of the leader of liberal-rooted multitudes, Jorge E. Gaitan, and with the grim suspicion of the criminal apparatus of the state as the principal and intellectual author of the mangicide, the genesis of what would become the longest and bloodiest war in the history of the quiet country was ignited.

What was presumed to be a sterile seed, expected to germinate in the sterile valley of meager democracy in the country of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, turned into a rebirth of hope for a group of workers, students, and peasants who made up an abandoned people ruled by ancient corrupt parties full of a bureaucracy worthy of an autocratic state. That thirst for good governance and tolerance among parties, and therefore among similarly angry people, shaped the spectrum of protest and desire for change for generations.

Nourished by the voices of the new trends in political demonstrations of the Eastern European generation, with the new promising image of a just and equitable world caught up with the revealing theses and proposals of Soviet communism, and in turn with the nearby mirror of the island of Fidel Castro in the development of a socialism announced as a clear son of a communism absorbed in its principles, a sufficient breath of life was given to that incipient seed that the state rejected.

With these demonstrations, and with the indifference of a bureaucratic State that sponsored the elites of a bourgeoisie trained in European and North American schools, the necessary fuel was given to start the decision to take up arms in the centers of public education and in the teaching profession and with the encouragement of a people who cried out for Justice and Equality.

Backed by leaders of the Catholic Church and a peasantry tired of the promises of the day for the candidate chosen by the party, the new People’s Revolutionary Guerrilla was brought to life; they left the fields with machetes and sticks and some shotguns full of rust given from supplies in the closets of some sympathizers of the small movement that did not promise to go beyond some skirmishes that in one way or another would be controlled by the Forces of the State.

An extensive area full of jungle and rugged and broken terrain was the scene of sinister attacks that were not victorious at all by a military force that was unaware of the strategies of unconventional warfare.

Warfare in which the location of the enemy was unknown, and in turn was confused with the civilian population, who appeared as ghosts in the thick and dense fog of the wild tropical jungle.

Encouraged by the revolutionary doctrines of the decade and the innocuous dissent of a youth eager for change, with mirrors of a Vietnam that emboldened courage in the face of the Yankee aggressor and its subsequent failures in the war that culminated in a withdrawal of the North American forces in frank debacle — these gave an effervescent incentive to the generation of “the new revolution” which dazzled the path of a new hope for change.

Thousands of dead and hundreds of orphaned families were the result of the barbarism of a people encouraged by the eccentricities of their nefarious governments and by the inert international panorama that made itself known in the honorable and macabre business of war games, which without a doubt was the best of the “business.”

Consecutive generations became clandestine, offering skirmishes of sudden orgies of triumph with bittersweet flavors that only created excited, short seasons of daring incursions into remote bastions of the so-called democracy of a Failed State.

Great Commanders left, who dreamed of a country free of scum and nefarious city bureaucracy; compatriots also died who offered their lives to some legal ranks misnamed ranks of the National Army, who gave their lives for the head of a snake carrying the poison that killed the very genesis of the people who praised it and gloried in power .

Blood and pain raised a shield and a tricolor flag, heroically exalting martyred heroes from pre-Hispanic times, the same blood with which they freed us from the colonial yoke, and which we now dishonor with this Dantesque comedy of the massacre of a People.

With the entry of new variables to the internal conflict that provided fuel for the bonfire of the confrontation, war spread to the four cardinal points of the country, becoming the start of the roulette wheel of victories for the sides that claimed a victory that they never achieved.

With tears and hunger, a stoic people cried out for Justice and prayed to God and their ancestors in search of the always beloved Peace and Union for their children; they saw themselves punished for decades that paled before the eclipse of The Violence.

Hundreds of millions of dollars, wrongly named “donations” and peace proposals, bloomed in search of economic powers that would multiply their coffers with the apocalypse of War.

A North America shouting the worn-out argument of free and sovereign Capitalism, trying to cultivate a few short-thinking and country-sore sheep. Likewise, a flag showing the hammer and sickle countering at the table of horror with its communist theories in a frank fight like a bet at the Poker table; Poker that only had a great and unique winner: The People of Colombia.

Continuing this long and disastrous nightmare, and approaching the window of this horrible paradise of death, was the great utopian hope of the gods of the sacred leaf of the Andes, the coca leaf, and the great discovery of German and American scientists who transformed it into the appealing cloud of addiction of their people who used it as a mask to cover their lack of human sense and the absence of values in a society caused by the triviality of intolerant and indifferent social awareness.

Millions of green bills flooded the fields and converged in the big cities, thus giving rise to the abandonment of cultural practices and ancestral roots, where value was given to the tools and the craftsman, displacing the daily brotherhood to the conflict between them for a booty that appeared to be an endless panacea, and that ended up being the cancer of a thought that undermined the essence of some of the principles of our parents.

Five decades of an absurd war with a total flavor of failure that persecuted the cook and not his diners — one sees in the results of this erroneous and misnamed strategy the pathetic evidence of decomposition at the root of the primary bases of a defenseless and weak people with total lack of credibility in their current governments and foreign sponsors.

The people sometimes give birth to children who glimpse hope for a dawn that dismisses the twilight of the dark night, and these same children shake off the stormy clutches of the foreign yoke with illusions of escaping the ties of “Insovereignty,” the only bulwark of nations free and faithful to their children.

We see with amazement how by agreeing between the different actors in the conflict, we can accept the diversity of thought and enjoy the benefits thereof. We begin for the first time in the history of the Republic of Colombia a new phase with understanding of the parties and a desire to confront ideas with a simply tolerant position and with the spirit of transformation.

This new alternative misnamed “left” is the manifestation of a people who wanted to build on what was built and improve what was found; It is the expression of the daily sentiment in the voice of a leader who is committed to believing in a better country with equality and in the Country.

“Those peoples who do not fight for their freedom do not deserve to obtain it”

Imperfect Democratic Systems

Imperfect Democratic Systems

(translated from its original Spanish language submission)

by Luis Carlos Peniche Garces

 Second place, Nonfiction, Heard/Alexandria Detention Center writing contest, July 2022


Given its origin in Greek semantics, in which the basis of power was given into the hands of the people, chosen by the people and for the people, we can now move forward and ask if our actual “democracies” are in accordance with these principles of the sociopolitical genesis of the rule of law.


By virtue of the power of our great leaders over time, we find ourselves with a diversity of tendencies to extreme autonomy, which are fed by religious alignments in great part, ready to change the geopolitics of their territories, handing the decisions to the lavish empires, kingdoms, emirates and power to the Roman Church in all its evangelical populations of the entire world.


We only need to go back a little in our history to put on the table the question of whether we are condemned to repeat it for not having learned the lesson at great cost to our species or, on the contrary, whether we are obligated to discard the weight and turn the page with hopes of assimilating the life lessons and not forgetting the errors committed.


If Marx and Engels returned, they wouldn’t think that we would be a reflection of their theories, hurled with red banners of great relevance in the contemporary world… one needs to note that these were the pillars of a system which today represents one of the valid alternatives in half the world.


The democratic socialist systems, with their own peculiarities as in the Popular Republic of China, where its conception originated in the classic Marxist theories and the Leninist models and at the same time instructed by the ancient Soviet Union, gave as an alternative a different path of thinking and autonomy from the democratic states such as USA and Western Europe in its totality. Democratic systems, which, as the years have passed, have become victims of innumerable attacks with internal destabilizing forces which today lack a clean leadership and with collective objectives which rise above individual and party interests.


It would be very interesting to consider objective reasons which might lead us to conclusions about whether we are on the path of our democratic constitutions or, on the contrary, whether we have fallen on the utopian path of the bureaucratic demagogy.


Democracies that are called examples of the world and vectors of free thinking and precursors of free economic growth are seen today in the dilemma of social chaos and inequality of its people engendered in an identity crisis of nuclear family and total loss of the fundamental essence of the human being treated with dignity and equal participation in the society which supports him. We clearly see the ever growing breach between the 1% of the rich and the 99% of the remaining citizens who struggle for survival in a macabre swarm of commercial monopolies and economic groups which exterminate without mercy the longing for common prosperity.


The kidnapping of the parties and their self interests over the common good which is sheltered in a democratic constitution is every day more alienated and distant from its protective principles and brings us to a reality which we cannot hide behind the mask of “corruption.”


The consequences we have seen to belligerent acts which reveal to us substantial political actors in our democratic charters are not clear evidence of our manifestation in the legitimate constitutional right to vote. Today we find ourselves on a totally lost course in a globally enmeshed world of extreme political polarizations, forgetting the fundamental essence which is the welfare of the people.


The constant displacement of marginal communities with basic coverage and minimal conditions for survival lead us to anthropological and sociocultural dystopias which have no other solution than the concentration and balance of opportunities. Opportunities which only have a handle in the enrichment of the people in their principal source of growth which without doubt some are those “already in the know.” The lag in our communities in the training of its members from the basic marrow which is the formation of a nuclear family in circumstances of minimal human dignity and access to benefits of a participatory and resilient democracy.


The actual development of our democracies reflects a future which, if we don’t act in time and with tolerance, in addition to the proper containment of counting agencies, will surely be a disaster to a system of participatory democracy which will surely lead to chaos.


Recognized economic indicators such as the World Bank and the United Nations in their financial divisions show us how the geopolitical and economic panorama has given an extreme directional turn to systems such as the Democratic Socialists in China, which are positioned as primary world economic strength and to Russia as pioneer in the Advanced Nuclear Armament.


Could it be that the Chinese socialist democracy is showing us better results? Or could it be that Democracy is not a system of imperfections but an Imperfect System?