I'm down to translate this, should I directly post the translations right here?
The first of September, year 2000, three companies of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia attacked the military base of Montezuma hill in Pueblo Rico, over the mountainous area of Tatamá, between the departments of Chocó and Risaralda. The attack was executed by 180 guerrillas of the 9, 47, and Aurelio Rodriguez fronts, belonging to the then known as José María Córdoba Northwestern Bloc. Two commanders lead that attack, Rubín Morro, Martín Cruz Vega, of the Aurelio Rodríguez front, and Gadafi or Khadafi, Hernán Gutiérrez Villada, of the 47 front.
The guerrillas took half the base and held up with various ambushes the reinforcement of soldiers coming up the highway. The ghost plane crashed early in the morning against the Tatamá hill. In one of those ambushes the lieutenant colonel Jorge Eduardo Sánchez died, commander of the Battalion San Mateo en Pereira. That was one of the highest rank casualties that the Farc caused upon direct combat with military forces, six years before they had killed the major general Carlos Julio Gil Colorado, but his death didn't occur due to military operation, rather due to an assasination.
That story never told before was written by Camilo Alzate in a war report two decades after the war. Alzate travelled to the region, climbed the mountain multiple times, and talked with retired military vets, seasoned journalists, and pobladores of the hill, with politicians and neighbors of Puerto Rico who, for different motives, had been left trapped in combat or knew of its circumstances. Someone from the guerrilla who participated in the attack told the journalist crucial details of the operation and chronicle -which is long and full of obstacles, bogged down, crossed with confused and confusing voices- it appeared in the 2017 May edition of Universo Centro with a title I perceive as excessively pretentious, alegorical, and biblical: "The burning bush".
In 2017 I met Gadafi in a guerrila camp. We talked every afternoon in his safehouse, while outside troops formed or broke ranks, argued or reconciled, threshed the mud or cleaned it, during what felt like an eternity without any shooting or anything interesting going on. Gadafi, afflicted by years of cardiac pain, passed those days reclined, ambushing with his pillows an annoying green light that infiltrated through the slits of his safehouse, which provoked drunk-like dizzyness. To his side he always had a walky talky and a black 9mm. It was inevitable, we ended up talking about Montezuma. I told him Alzate had already told this story. -I read it -he responded-. But it's missing a lot of things, it has inaccuracies. And reclined in the gloom he began narrating the combat.
I was directing the troops that were in the ambush, and Rubín Morro was directing the troops inside the base. There in Montezuma 60 people died, 10 of ours and 50 of the state. The ghost plane was flown by Americans with a crew of 14, they all died. I was in charge of tracking and was at the forefront of helicopter and plane scanning. I listened to the man talking, the captain, I don't know if his last name was Niño or that's what they called him [he's referring to the pilot Tirso Javier Núñez].
But I must tell you that we brought down the ghost plane together, army and guerrilla. That's why I tell you there's a lot missing to this story. There are conversations that have probably never been told before. We eliminated colonel Sánchez around 5:00 PM. We didn't know he was there, we got through their communications and learned he had been killed. The fighting was very tenacious and the army after the colonel's death counterattacked and those soldiers were tangled up with the guerrilla in the highway, soldier and guerrilla face to face seeing who would strike first. There one of our boys was killed, the only casualty we had in that instance. Some soldiers stayed fighting with the guerrillas while the rest headed towards the base, that was around 9:00 or 10:00 PM, the colonel was already dead.
The guy commanding there was called Fredy. He informed us that they were stuck in hand to hand combat and we told him: "Brother, well hit them with machetes or knives, but you must resist until we take this place, we are taking out rifles, we are at the base, we have a group of soldiers under the main tower and we are seeing how to take them out".
Every fucking year that hill was always cloudy and that night it was very clear. And that motherfucker Arpía was hitting us, three Arpía helicopters, one was hitting us from below and the other two from above. They rained down lead on the hill. My radar girl pissed her pants. We were linked with the secretariat, we had no communication problems at all, the combat was directed by Iván Márquez. We were close to the base, around 200 meters or so, because we had to pick up the wounded. The first dead was a girl called Luz Dary, in charge of filming, she died at 2:00 PM: she raised her head to film and was shot, she was very close, about 150 meters. There we buried her. She was left buried there. At 1:30 we had a wounded guy, some boy shot in the leg.
When we were trying to encircle them the soldiers were left outside of our ring. We had miscalculated: our trenches were 150 meters but the towers were 200 meters and we had the cylinder charge loads to fall 150 meters, so the charges fell only up to the trenches so we had to pick them up to reach the towers, but we had already used up the pipettes. We recovered a .50 cal machinegun and a 120mm mortar. Around 3:00 in the morning we had consolidated our position, we heard the second lieutenant of the base talking in a radio with the general in Bogotá: "If I don't get any support I'll surrender. I will surrender. A lot of people have jumped over the cliff, we don't know if they are dead or alive. I have the guerrillas 10 meters away, I'm surrounded and they're saying they'll place a bomb to the tower".
And yes, we were looking how to bomb those towers. We had some of our people already inside, eating in the soldiers' cafeteria and in their barracks. The general ordered the captain of the plane Niño [Núñez], to bomb us with a 500kg bomb. "But we'll kill our own men", he said to him. "I don't care, let all those cowards die", the general replied.
So I responded to the commander of the base it would be best if he surrendered. Among ourselves we prepared. And then came that fucking plane ready to kill us all. "Let's deal with the bomb ourselves", we said. "Let's hit him with everything we got". And shot that plane, even the soldiers with their machineguns. At 4:30 in the morning everything was calm, there was no more gunfire. Then the Quimbaya Battalion appeared. They started shooting, so with Morro we started evaluating the situation: "What do we do? These motherfuckers showed up and the guys from the ambush are not responding, I don't know if Fredy was killed but he's not responding". Then they showed up in the sky. That plane did a lot of damage, they killed like 5 of our men, left 4 wounded, and from the last strafing run we heard him on the radio: "I'm hitting them, I'm hitting them", and the motherfucker laughed.
We began talking with the secretariat to see what should we do, leave or stay. "If we stay we can recapture this thing, but we'll have to deal with more losses". I told Rubín: "It's best we stop, a pyrric victory isn't worth anything, sustaining more losses isn't worth it, we have already have too many, let's retreat". We had 7 dead men.
So we retreated.
But Otilia [Emilse Padiera Cartagena], in a failed manouver, jumped over a ledge and was ambushed. There two more guerrillas were killed. They were very close to the highway, soldiers heard them and filled them with lead, blind firing, without knowing where they were. I sent some people to help them and recover the wounded. A very dazed looking boy came crawling, when he got to us he said: "I can die peacefully now, I know I'm in your hands and won't get caught by these motherfuckers". He died. Here in our camp we have a girl that left there with an arm wound, Choiba. She has a good story to tell. She gave birth in prison.
I remember that when I was retreating I fell asleep on the road, we had gone two nights without sleep. I laid down by a small tree and was left to be by our people. When I woke up at around 6:30, I came across Choiba wounded with some guy. I told them: "Don't leave her, take her, I'll call for some help". Then I saw Rubín going through a creek, where our guys had been ambushed. "We have to go around the edge, it'll take us to the mine", I told him. And there came another helicopter ready to fire on us. Rubín was in front, I was behind. There I sent some people to help out, to reinforce.
We arrived at the mine in Las Canarias, we picked up our equipment, the wounded, and kept going. Morning arrived with us in the highway between Pueblo Rico and Chocó. There we reported to the secretariat the operation went very badly: we had 10 dead, around 10 wounded, and 5 missing in action. Then they told us if we wanted more, we had shot down a plane and killed the colonel. About the colonel we knew already but we found out about the plane when we left for Las Canarias.
And I must tell you something: war isn't felt the same in the camp and in the battlefield. Whoever lives in the camp is guarded, with certain luxuries available, precarious but better than being in combat. He thinks differently compared to the guy going off to fight.
That's why I didn't agree with how we were judged by those outside of combat, because they judged us around assumptions: "You can't be commander for such and such reason". They have never been in war. They have never been in an active battlefield. They have never felt what a warrior with broken boots and without uniform feels. They have never felt what a sick warrior without food feels. It's not the same.
I didn't hear about Gadafi ever again, just that he had left to live in the peace of the mountains in the east of Caldas, in the mountain range where he knew about every nook and cranny and where even then the army had defeated him one year later after the death of his boss Iván Ríos and the surrender of Karina, Elda Neyis Mosquera, whom he shared the leadership of the front 47 with, after a military encirclement in the moor of Sonsón. Gadafi could only escape with his sister in arms, as he told me, when he had not even 15 men under his command.
Journalist Juliana Villanueva found him in 2019 and did an extensive interview with him for the newspaper La Patria of Manizales. His answers were no longer those of the proud warrior of so many battles and scars that I had talked with, but rather those of a decalogue of regret and disappointment. "No one benefits from war, few profit off of it and the worst losers are the most needing", said Gadafi in the interview, one of the few ones he has given in his life. "The years have taken their toll on me, sickness has me exhausted.", he confessed to Villanueva. How irreddemable is humanity -I thought analizing him-, so often it needs to survive a war to convince itself, once again, about the irrationality of wars.
There's the first one, I think it's a pretty good translation though at some points the wording will inevitably be a bit weird and confusing, mainly due to how Gadafi narrates the story. I don't know that's just how he tells it or if Colombians talk like this, because at times it's a bit confusing figuring out what he's talking about. Spanish is my native tongue but even then some parts were very difficult to translate in a way it's understandable due to this, but overall I think it's quite good.
I'll get around translating the rest eventuall, hopefully sooner than later. This board will only stay until the end of the month right? If I haven't finished the rest by then check the Latinamerica general, probably the best place to post this so I'll do it there if I don't finish by December.