Las Dos Orillas (The Two Shores), January 25, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

They left him for dead in the bombing that killed Raul Réyes; he was a prisoner in Venezuela, and after the signing of the Peace Agreement, Julián Conrado was elected Mayor of his home town.

His civilian name is Guillermo Enrique Torres. He rocketed to fame in the demobilized zone of Caguán when he sang at the inaugural event of the peace talks between the Pastrana administration and the FARC. He knows a few cumbias, but he’s really a singer of classic vallenato,[1] and he always carries a Spanish guitar.

Conrado, now that he’s an ex-combatant, was elected Mayor of a town (pueblo) located some 30 minutes from Cartagena de Indias. With that same guitar, and thanks to the Peace Agreement, he conquered his home town of Turbaco in the elections for mayor and governors in 2019. where he received 50.7% of the vote (21,446 votes) against the 13,681votes obtained by his closest competitor. On that day, Guillermo Torres became the first former guerilla to be elected mayor after the Peace Agreement.

But that was not his greatest achievement. Besides being awarded a prize for being the “Mayor with the most Solidarity and Inclusion in Colombia 2021”, for being the most outstanding mayor in the task of social inclusion for the most vulnerable people in his municipality, he achieved the unthinkable: that every house in his town will have potable water every day, allaying a torment they had been suffering every day for fifty years.

A tweet by an observer:

“On the left is Guillo Torres, an ex-guerrilla, now the Mayor of Turbaco. His town had NEVER had potable water for almost 500 years. Always governed by the shameless thieves on the right. In two years, Guillo got water that comes to every house EVERY day. Nothing more to say.”

Torres was the right hand of Edgar Devia, alias ‘Raul Réyes’, killed during “Operation Fénix” by the Colombian Armed Forces on March 1 of 2008. It set off a controversy with the neighboring country of Ecuador because the bombing was in a jungle area near the Province of Sucumbíos. It was believed then that “Julián Conrado” had been killed. But on March 3, the Director of the Forensic Medicine Unit, Pedro Franco, ruled that rumor out.

He had learned to play the guitar at a very young age, and had composed more than 100 songs, two of which were recorded by the famous vallenato singer, Alfredo Gutiérrez. After he joined the guerrillas in 1984, he became the official singer of the FARC.

Now in his new life, returning to his home town, he dedicated himself to politics. As Mayor, he hadn’t run with the support of the FARC Party, but rather with the support of Humane Colombia—UP, because his relations with the guerrillas were not the greatest in recent years. He had asked to leave, but before the Secretariat could refuse, he chose his own path.

And since then, his achievements have been on the rise. A few months ago, he graduated from high school, the oldest of the group, along with his wife, Lola. Now, in his town, because of the project to extend the water system by 8,000 lineal meters, more than eight communities in the municipality in northern Bolívar Department are able to rely on water in their homes. The projects were valued at approximately 1,300 million pesos (roughly USD $329,000).

Defeating the economic and political power of the families that control everything, this man, armed with a guitar, and with the motto “We Will Conquer With Love”, Julián Conrado has been able to win back the power they had established in his municipality.

[1] Cumbia and vallenato are both important types of Colombian folkloric music.

This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.