FOR ME, living underground has not been a problem. I knew something of the underground life. I had many friends and comrades in the M-19. As a doctor, I had attended many comrades who were in hiding . . . You have to take a lot of security precautions, but life in hiding has certain special characteristics -- first, because you're in an atmosphere of great brotherhood, with all your comrades, because the people who join you in the struggle, in the place where you live or you're transferred to, are always filled with the great sense of the work you're doing. And you feel wonderful. You're carrying out a mission of great importance. And that stimulates you.
Carlos Toledo Plata -- physician to rural children, clinic director, member of parliament, husband and father, son of a professor who is a lifelong Conservative Party member -- has been one of the pillars of the M-19 ever since it was created. Throughmost of the 1970s he worked quietly with the movement while serving as an elected national representative of the National Popular Alliance party. In late 1978, just before the massive arms theft that focused the Colombian military's anger on the M-19, Toledo Plata went into hiding .
He is 48 and lean, with thick white hair. In the trial photos he looks like an undernourished college professor. He is said to be the ideologue of the M-19.
This interview was obtained, like the Pabon interview, through intermediaries who were able to enter the prison. Toledo Plata answered almost every question in soft, precise Spanish; at the end, the man reading him the questions said how sorry they were that the reporter had not been able to enter the prison. When his voice ended, the tape went right on with a recorded medley of Beatles songs .
I started in politics in the National Popular Alliance. . . This was a popular movement that supported social justice, free education, health for all Colombians, work and social security -- so it attracted me. It had certain similarities to Peronism, which I had come to know [as a student] in Argentina . . .
I thought that in Parliament I would be able to put forward many of these ideas . . . The experience I found was that all the projects we presented, on health, on education, on social security, on guarantees for workers and peasants, on help for children -- they just sat there without being approved, because the Colombian parliament characteristically approves only projects proposed by the government in charge . . .
We want a real democracy. That's what the country needs. A country that principally must break the monopolies, must organize land so that all campesinos can work there and produce a small quantity of food. It must support middle and small industries so they can develop sources or work for the population. It must end the repressive control that keeps all these changes from taking place . . . It's a restricted democracy, because only 30 percent of those who can vote go to elections . . . Public power is concentrated in the hands of one single power, the executive power, who in his turn is controlled by the military . . .
Before going into hiding, I separated from my family, from my wife and my children. Each one of them was moved to another activity. We maintain contact -- not very frequently, but I know what they're doing. And my wife and children agree with me completely, and share the struggle and the ideals I'm fighting for, even though personally I'd rather be at their sides helping them in their studies, in their growing up and development. But they understand that it's more important to serve the whole community and not just a family."