Colombia remembers conflict victims in the shadow of fresh violence
Bogota, Apr 9 (EFE).- Colombians on Friday remembered people who had suffered one or the other form of political violence in the country’s troubled past, even as uncertainty grows over new conflicts affecting the country’s most remote and impoverished regions.
On the National Day of Memory and Solidarity with Victims of Armed Conflict, people who witnessed the violence firsthand recalled their suffering and remembered the loved ones they had lost in a war that seems to be intensifying again instead of reaching its promised end.
The Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Pares) warned on Friday that the major armed groups of Colombia, Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN, National Liberation Army), Clan de Golfo (the Gulf Clan) and two dissident factions of the now-defunct FARC have strengthened and expanded under the presidency of Ivan Duque (2018-2022).
The Clan del Golfo is the largest criminal group in the country and has a presence in 241 municipalities of Colombia, according to the report released by Pares.
They are followed by the ELN, which is present in 183 municipalities while the FARC spinoff led by Gentil Duarte (pseudonym) is there in 119 and Segunda Marquetalia – established by FARC’s chief peace negotiator, known as Ivan Marquez – operates in 61 municipalities.
Violence is surging again in a country where the number of registered victims is as high as 9,250,453, including 7,350,349 who are liable to receive support and compensation.
As part of the commemoration, the ninth street market for peace was held on Saturday in Bogota’s Casa de la Paz (House of Peace), a cultural center established by former FARC fighters which has emerged as a space for reconciliation.
The participants included Gladys Acevedo, mother of a soldier killed by a cylinder bomb triggered by the FARC in 2012 in the city of La Uribe, in the central Meta department, who is now the leader of the Color y Esperanza (Color and Hope) foundation.
“We took the decision to establish this productive project which has helped us minimize the pain, worked as therapy. We make military dolls with our sons’ uniforms, we also make diaries,” she told EFE.
It is important for them to work side by side with former FARC fighters and Acevedo says “this has helped us heal, because listening to each other’s stories, one begins to see that they are human beings, and that they are also suffering, like us.”
“All this is the result of a failed state which has not known how to govern,” she insists.
Gonzalo Beltran, a former FARC militant and the legal representative of the Tejiendo Paz (weaving peace) cooperative, told EFE that as part of observing the day of victims, the government should be pressed to “pay a lot of attention to the question of violence, as more than 300 ex-fighters of the FARC have been killed” since the peace agreement was signed in 2016, and now they are also victims of conflict.
The mission to support the Colombian peace processes established by the Organization of American States, as well as the embassies of Germany, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Switzerland in a joint statement hailed the “valuable lessons” left behind by the victims.
They also insisted that the territories freed from the rebels and their former leaders should not remain mired in risk and insecurity and urged the authorities to ensure guarantees of rights and peaceful reconstruction.
In the first quarter of 2022, Colombia witnessed a spike in violence and assassinations of ex-guerilla fighters and leaders, raising concern among social and international organizations.
Jesuit priest Francisco de Roux, president of the Truth Commission, expressed solidarity with the victims along with “deep consternation to see that there has been so much pain the country due to the internal conflict and to think that the pain still continues for many.”
“We cannot forget this date, which is the accumulation of the pain and suffering carried by 10 million people,” said De Roux, reminding that the day was observed on Apr. 9 due to the assassination of liberal leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan on this date in 1948, which led to a period of turbulence known as La Violencia (the great violence) and eventually culminated in the armed conflict. EFE