Carlos the Jackal: Trail of Terror, Parts 1 and 2

A Born Revolutionary

Carlos was born in Caracas, in the state of Tachira, Venezuela on October 12, 1949.His mother, Elba Maria Sánchez had planned to give him a Christian name in keeping with her strong Catholic beliefs. José Altagracia Ramírez Navas, the boy's father, had other ideas.As a devout Marxist, he insisted that his first son should be named after his hero, Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov or Lenin, as he was better known.Stubbornly ignoring his wife's protests, José registered his son as Ilich Ramírez Sánchez.

José Altagracia Ramírez Navas (POLICE)
José Altagracia Ramírez
Navas (POLICE)

Ironically, in his youth, José had entered a Catholic seminary with the intention of becoming a priest.However, after completing only three years of study, he declared himself an atheist and returned home to the town of Michelena in Tachira.He was later accused of harboring an outlaw by the Tachira authorities, who labeled him as a Communist and expelled him from his home state.Angered by the decision, he crossed the border into Colombia and enrolled in a Bogotá university to study law.Not long after commencing his studies, he aligned himself with a leftist faction in Bogotá and by the time he had completed his law degree he had become a committed Marxist-Leninist.

Determined that Ilich would not waste his life pursuing Christian ideals, José taught his son Marxist doctrine and regaled him with the exploits of the many leftist revolutionaries that South America had spawned.His mother, on the other hand, refused to stand by and see her son turned away from the church and had him baptized in secret.On other occasions, while her husband was away on business, she took Ilich to mass in an attempt to dilute her husband's teachings.Even though he loved his mother for her tenderness and respected her for her refusal to bow to her dogmatic and overbearing husband, Ilich later embraced Marxism as his "one true religion" and turned his back on the church forever.

In 1951, his brother was born.Again, José had his way and named the boy Lenin.Seven years later a third son was born and according to the same tradition was named Vladimir.In later years "Carlos" was quoted as saying: "It was bloody stupid of my Father to give his children such weird names.That kind of thing weighs on the children.In my case it was fortunate, but things were different for my brothers.They are not ashamed of their names, but it did cause them problems in later life."

Owing to the success of his legal practice José was able to afford to hire private tutors to teach his eldest son the finer points of communist doctrine.While Ilich was singled out for specialist teachings, he reared all three of his son's under a strict code of ethical behavior to the point that he later wrote a pamphlet for them setting out the moral, ethical and civic standards that he insisted they adhere to.

Ilich at sixteen (POLICE)
Ilich at sixteen

As Ilich grew taller and heavier his friends teased him calling him "El Gordo" (Fatso).He hated the name and would scream in anger and counter their taunts by telling them how one day they and the rest of the world would hear of him.Regardless of the name-calling, Ilich became a natural leader in a group comprising his brothers and their friends.

Elba Maria Sanchez
Elba Maria Sanchez

In 1958, because of her husband's blatant womanizing, Elba took her sons and left the family house, traveling to Jamaica then Mexico and back to Jamaica again before returning to Caracas in 1961.The years of traveling were disruptive for the boys and particularly affected Ilich.His schoolwork suffered but he discovered that he had a flair for languages and reveled in the different cultures he encountered.

Elba's period of absence from the family home had done nothing to correct the instability in her marriage, to the point where José began bringing his mistresses home.The couple was divorced two years later.Ilich was only thirteen when his parents split but, by his own admission, was relieved that the bitterness in his family was finally over.

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