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Patriotic Union (Colombia)
The Unión Patriótica, Patriotic Union (UP), was a leftist Colombian political party founded by the FARC in 1985, as part of the peace negotiations that the guerrillas held with the Belisario Betancur administration. The party was subject to political violence from druglords, paramilitaries and rogue military agents during the mid-1980s, leading to its eventual decline and virtual disappearance.
According to analysts, witnesses and internal FARC documents from the group's 1982 Seventh Guerrilla Conference, the FARC originally intended for this party to be its political branch for recruitment and ideological propaganda purposes, while simultaneously maintaining its armed strength intact, at least initially, as part of the "combination of all forms of struggle".
When the negotiations with the Betancur administration began, a cease-fire was declared in October 1984 and initially respected by both parties, but the FARC as a whole did not demobilize or directly renounce to the armed struggle as a means of resolving Colombia's problems. The UP was founded in May 1985 and several prominent FARC members were among the party's original founders, as well as members of the Colombian Communist Party.
The UP's ideology was openly communist and marxist, but the main platform initially consisted of promoting itself as a legal and democratic alternative to the two main Colombian political parties, the Colombian Conservative Party and the Colombian Liberal Party.
Gradually, many independents, leftwingers and others joined the party, eventually changing its focus from what was perceived as a FARC vehicle to a more independent-minded political actor, not directly responsible to the guerrilla's Secretariat and in fact in outright conflict with it on some points.
The UP had some mixed electoral success. In the 1986 general elections (during which the indirect election of mayors, governors and other posts was still valid), it expected to gain 5 % of the vote, but received 1.4 %. This was enough for it to gain 5 seats in the Senate and 9 in the Chamber of Representatives at the national level, and 14 deputies, 351 councilmen and 23 municipal mayors at the local level. Results which, despite their limitations, were at that moment unprecedented for a non-mainstream third party.
Jaime Pardo Leal, as the the UP's candidate, came third in the May 1986 presidential race, with some 350,000 votes, 4.5 % of the total. Electoral observers suspected that the FARC had employed tactics such as kidnapping, extortion and assassinations to intimidate at least some of the voters in their areas of influence.
In the March 1988 elections (when the direct popular election of mayors, governors and others was formally introduced and implemented), the UP once again did not meet its original expectations, but was still considered by some observers to be the fourth most voted political party in Colombia, gaining 14 out of 1,008 mayoralties. Observers noted that the election gave the UP legal jurisdiction over the police and military forces in local districts with strong FARC activity. 
Decline and Extermination
By 1987, the party's leadership began to be gradually but increasingly decimated by the violent attacks and assassinations carried out by druglords, proto-paramilitary groups and some members of the government's armed forces that acted together with the above, with what many observers consider as the passive tolerance (and in, some instances, the alleged collaboration) of the traditional bipartisan political establishment.
Pardo Leal himself was assassinated by a 14-year old in October 11 1987, who was later killed as well. Druglord José Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha , also known as "the Mexican", was apparently involved in the murder as a sponsor. The Communist Party's newspaper published a report in which it allegedly linked members of the Colombian military to Rodriguez Gacha.
In 1988, the UP announced that more than 500 of its members, including Pardo Leal and 4 congressmen, had been assassinated to date. Unidentified gunmen later attacked more than 100 of the UP's local candidates in the six months preceding the March 1988 elections. An April 1988 report by Amnesty International charged that members of the Colombian military and government would be involved in what was called a "deliberate policy of political murder" of UP militants and others. The government of Virgilio Barco Vargas strongly denied this charge.
During this period, the mid-1980s to the early-1990s, deadly violence was also directed against mainstream politicians, such as the official Liberal presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán in August 18 1989, M-19 presidential candidate Carlos Pizarro Leongómez in April 26 1990, Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla in April 30 1984, and others, mainly by the actions of druglords and those in their employ. Liberal dissident Ernesto Samper Pizano was wounded during an assassination attempt on March 3 1989, but survived the attack. Numerous carbombs and explosives were also regularily activated in several important Colombian cities, including the capital Bogotá, leaving hundreds dead and wounded.
While some investigations were opened and some of the gunmen and military men involved were captured and convicted, most of the murders committed during these years were never resolved and most of those intellectually responsible were never punished, indicating a high degree of judicial impunity that continues to plague modern Colombia.
It has been claimed by some of the individuals responsible, such as the AUC's Carlos Castaño Gil (who published a book in which he admitted his participation in many of these events and has apparently regretted a number of his actions), that they believed that the UP was nothing more than a FARC front, in order to attempt to rationalize the violence. According to many observers, such a situation had not been strictly true for long, and the FARC itself later began to further distance itself from the group amid the bloodshed.  Some also consider that the FARC's political wing suffered both a physical and mental blow during this period. 
The exact number of the victims is not clear. It is usually an accepted figure to state that allegedly some 2,000 to 3,000 of its members were murdered (the highest unofficial and unconfirmed estimates, irregularly employed by the FARC and a small number of analysts, speak of 5,000 or more  ).
According to the FARC's estimates, two presidential candidates were murdered, plus eight congressmen, 70 councilmen, dozens of deputies and mayors, hundreds of trade unionists, communist and peasant leaders, and an unestablished number of militants.
The official legal representatives of a partial number of UP victims presented a concrete death toll of about 1,163 to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), of which 450 (38%) were attributed directly to paramilitary groups. The breakdown of the remainder was not publicly specified. 
In the 1991 legislative elections, the UP elected 3 congressmen  and only elected one senator, Manuel Cepeda Vargas in the 1994 elections. By then, the UP itself and many of its then leaders (such as presidential candidate Jaramillo Ossa, and senator Cepeda Vargas, murdered later in 1994), in spite of the wave of violence unleashed against them, rejected the violence and continued to insist for a negotiated settlement in order to end Colombia's conflict.
Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa, a lifelong member of the Communist Party, witnessed the deaths of his comrades and had openly criticized the positions of both the FARC and the Colombian government, because of what he considered as their mutual intolerance and lack of willingness to compromise for peace. He had promoted the entrance of the UP into the Socialist International, a move which was apparently unwelcome by the FARC and the Colombian Communist Party at the time. He believed that with the end of the Cold War, social democracy was the only effective way to resolve Colombia's problems, and not armed revolution.
The FARC-EP and its sympathizers have later repeatedly employed the destruction of the UP as a strong argument in order to justify its armed struggle against the Colombian state and its assuming positions that many on the Colombian and international leftwing consider to be radical. FARC officially considers that the UP's extermination was a clear sign of government intolerance and of the impossibility of legal political action in Colombia.
Several of the FARC's critics believe that, despite the unjustifiable bloodshed, it is debatable whether such positions are entirely a consequence of the UP's failure. Some believe that, at least partially, their basis was part of the FARC's preexisting ideological and political strategies. In addition, members of the legal leftwing parties in modern Colombia, such as the Independent Democratic Pole, while they are still subject to targetted threats and assassinations for which they blame paramilitaries and/or individual members of the state's armed forces, have stated that the legal political struggle that the UP fought and ultimately died for should not be given up in favor of the use of arms, which only extends the cycle of violence.
Most members of the Colombian left and the surviving victims, however, tend to agree that the Colombian state should provide an adequate resolution to the crimes, by giving reparations to the victims, implementing a degree of judicial punishment to those responsible, and most importantly, securing a public revelation of the full truth about the matter .
If it does not do so, as it has not yet been the case, then international tribunals or organizations, such as the IACHR, should assign it the proper responsibility. For these reasons, many are skeptical and highly critical of the demobilization negotiations that Alvaro Uribe's administration is holding with the AUC, because they fear that they might result in undue impunity.
The UP, among other minor parties that had been losing votes in recent years, formally lost its legal representative status as a political party (personería jurídica) in September 2002 after that year's national elections, due to the application of new electoral laws that conditioned such a status (or the regaining of the same) to either the signing of a petition with 50,000 signatures or to obtaining a certain minimum percentage of votes.
Possible Legal Action/Reparation?
On February 4 2004, Vice president Francisco Santos Calderón announced that the Colombian state had reached an official agreement with the Reiniciar NGO, which represents a number of victims of the UP and the Communist Party, who had presented their cases before the IACHR earlier. In addition to an estimated 1.163 homicide victims, 120 forced disappearances, 43 attack survivors, and more than 250 victims of threats were represented by the NGO. 
The agreement would mean that the Colombian state has accepted that it is legally obliged to begin to seek a final compromise with the victims, which should provide an investigation of the crimes and judicial sanction for those responsible, in addition to a degree of moral and economic reparation. Critical observers have mentioned that the government's negotiations with the paramilitaries could run contrary to this compromise, if not properly handled.
The incident was sponsored by the OAS, as a result of which the state is theoretically forced to comply with it as much as with any international treaty, as an alternative to any eventual direct IACHR decision. The announcement apparently did not receive much press coverage at the time and further developments, if any, have not been made public yet. Vicepresident Santos stated that he hopes that a solution is reached before the government's term ends in 2006.
- Unión de Jóvenes Patrioticas (Union of Patriotic Youth)
- List of murdered UP militants (Spanish)
- Recuerdan a víctimas de la violencia contra Unión Patriótica (Spanish)
- Human Rights Watch on Impunity in Colombia (2003)
- BBC - Colombia Timeline
- BBC - Colombia's most powerful rebels
- Colombia 1993 IACHR report (in Spanish, includes background information)
- FARC - Homepage (in Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and German)
- FARC - Chronology (Spanish)
- FARC - State Crimes in Colombia (Spanish)
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