Conflicts & War

Colombia mothers use art to draw attention to fight against ‘false positives’

Bogotá, Apr 16 (EFE).- The association, Mothers of False Positives of Colombia (Mafapo), on Sunday commemorated with art their 15-year fight against the impunity that exists for the extrajudicial executions of their children during the armed conflict between the government and left-wing guerrilla groups.

Accompanied by plastic artists, the women painted boots to convey a message of “reconciliation, of rebirth, of hope and peace”, not of hatred or pain.

“Many of the artists who are participating have also been victims directly or indirectly of the conflict as well,” Iván Rinconesarte, director of the Rinconesarte Foundation, told EFE.

“The meaning is very special, in these 15 years when the entire investigation was done, many of them found their children with their boots on backwards. When they camouflaged them and put them in uniform, they put their boots on backwards,” he said.

“That was an internal struggle and a very painful message, but when we came upon the project, we said that you have put on your boots very well for 15 years not to remain silent, to deliver a message. That’s why the project is called ‘Women with Boots On,'” the artist added.

The term “false positive” refers to the executions of civilians by members of the military, who then presented them as guerrillas killed in combat to receive rewards or other benefits.

According to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), a transitional justice tribunal established as a result of the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the former Farc guerilla group, at least 6,402 innocent young people were deceived with promises of false jobs and executed by members of the military to inflate body counts and receive rewards in return.

“The objective is that they will finally rest the boots in the Museum of Memory (under construction in Bogotá) so that people can come from anywhere and know this history,” the artist said.

Mafapo spokesperson and sister of victim, Jaime Castillo Peña, Jaqueline Castillo said that the mothers have made “great achievements” although they have been “very slow steps.”

An example of what they have achieved is “the work that has been done with the JEP, having shown that figure of 6,402 fully documented cases, with which we proved that it had been a systematic practice under State policy,” she said.

“I managed to find my brother in horrible conditions because he was not even in a cemetery, they started renting places on the farms where the owners told us that they arrived with the bodies and threw them from helicopters,” she recalled.

Therefore, Sunday’s event serves to remember the death of their family members, which “are facts that cannot be forgotten” and “also show society how we can remember through art, how we can heal through art.” EFE


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