(Translated by Kevin Funk,  a CSN volunteer translator)

Medellin, August 17, 2007

University of Antioquia, Rectory, School of Medicine, National School of Public Health, Library System, University Museum, Héctor Abad Gómez Corporation for Education and Public Health, Mayor’s Office of Medellin – Secretary of Civic Culture.
Organizers and Conveners of the Act and Tribute called:


Respected Institutions,

Many defenders of human rights killed in the deadly decade of the 1980s, and whose peak, outside of 1987, up to the point that the international press came to call "1987 the year of the dirty war in Colombia" because that macabre sequence of killings, that irrational escalation of state terror, was, as it was deemed by the ex-president Carlos Lleras Restrepo, the coronation of assassination as a political weapon.

Let us recall that in that period, organizations defending human rights and forces of the left were pointing out that the "dirty war" is based on the doctrine of national security and that an alliance of narcotraffickers, landowners, and soldiers is carrying it out.  They also pointed out that the "Dirty War" was being executed by 147 "self-defense" groups or "Death Squads" – a figure delivered to Congress by the then-minister of Government, César Gaviria.

You must also recall that since the middle of 1987, the "Dirty War" got a new look: the proliferation of "black lists" of those threatened with death, accused of "relations with guerrillas" (like several journalists), or as "useful idiots of subversion" (like defenders of human rights).

The threats provoked a stampede, and dozens of journalists, artists, university professors, and intellectuals took the path to exile, obligated by circumstance.

In good time you will carry out an excellent program to praise four emblematic human rights defenders from the period, the doctors: Héctor Abad Gómez, Leonardo Betancur T, Pedro Luís Valencia G. and Luís Fernando Vélez V., killed in Medellin in 1987.

But it is necessary to remember that the decade of the 80s was hardly the beginning of that dark policy of exterminating social and political leaders that participated in the struggle for democracy, since it did not only happen to defenders of human rights, let us recall also that the historic civic movement of Eastern Antioquia, in which 142 of its leaders were killed, not to mention the leaders of campesinos, unions, and the Patriotic Union party.

Ten years later, to be exact August 25, 1997, in the adjoining space of the auditorium of the University of Antioquia, one of the moral and ethical points of reference from that decade who had picked up the flags in the defense of human rights, they commemorated the tenth anniversary for whom you are now commemorating twenty years.
That man in his extreme solitude, who had been the president of the Departmental Committee for Human Rights for nine years, brought to fruition two historic events in that commemoration; he gave a speech in which he denounced the relationship between military commanders, police commanders, which coexist, and with paramilitaries, and in said happening, the second event is carried out, described as an act of renewal of commitment to the defense of human rights JESUS MARIA VALLE JARAMILLO, who more than being a lawyer, was a jurist, a true defender of human rights, and for whom it was a fundamental principal to base himself in the "strength of rightness and not in the rightness of force," he pronounced, in the middle of a completely full auditorium of the University of Antioquia, a speech which culminated:


For that reason tonight, the presence of all of you, of the Abad and Betancur families, that of the honorable judge of the Constitutional Court, Dr. Carlos Gaviria, of the committee coordinators, men and women, fills us with joy.  And in these historic surroundings we can today say: Héctor Abad, Leonardo, Fernando, Pedro Luis, Carlos, Felipe, here we are!  We can say: Heli Gómez, ombudsman of El Carmen; persecuted professors, victims: HERE WE ARE AND WILL ALWAYS BE, IN THE DIN OF THE STRUGGLE OR IN THE CALM OF DEATH!


Men and women of the University of Antioquia, of the Rectory, of the School of Medicine, of the National School of Public Health, of the Library System, of the University Museum, of the Héctor Abad Gómez Corporation for Education and Public Health, of the Mayor’s Office of Medellin – Secretary of Civil Culture, and whoever else have organized and convened this great act and tribute: How can we complement in your activities THE INCLUSION, to make it, the more than deserved tribute, to the last of the Presidents of the Defense of Human Rights of Antioquia?


For next February, 2008, ten years of the assassination of Doctor Jesús María Valle will be commemorated, and it seems to me that you have been left with some doubts with this emblematic personality from the democratic society of Antioquia and Colombia and for that reason I propose to you that the different organizations give a posthumous tribute to Jesús María Valle Jaramillo, the distinguished teacher and fighter for human rights, and in that way praise him for what he was: an ethical symbol of our history; the most living example of the virtues that should be imitated for his grand soul, for the strength of his character, for the purity of his heart and for the magnificence of his ideals.

As a gesture of approval, I propose to you that in the different acts as of today, an EMPTY CHAIR be placed in this Barrientos square, to express his absence, his presence, and especially for the closing act of the auditorium of the University of Antioquia that not only is there left an EMPTY CHAIR, but that also an outline of his body is created and that a commemoration is convened for his tenth anniversary.




Carlos A. Ruiz Ospina
Author of a Sociopolitical Profile of Jesús María Valle Jaramillo
Historical Validity of the Struggle in Defense of Human Rights
Member, Board of Directors, National Labor School  



University of Antioquia, Rectory
Tribute to Héctor Abad Gómez, Leonardo Betancur Taborda, Pedro Luis Valencia Giraldo and Luis Fernando Vélez Vélez, defenders of human rights, killed in Medellin in 1987.

August 17-24, 2007



It causes undeniable pain to remember the deaths of those we love, above all if they were victims of violence, but it would cause more pain and grief if we were a society which carried forgetting as a badge of fear or dehumanization.  

Pedro Luis Valencia, Leonardo Betancur, Héctor Abad Gómez and Luis Fernando Vélez Vélez, all defenders of human rights, graduates of and professors at the University of Antioquia, and human beings who struggled with their ideas and words for a country that is more democratic, more educated, and more egalitarian.  They were killed from the sidewalk of cowardice in 1987, that is to say, twenty years ago.  Today we remember them as we have during all of these years, and as we should remember so many others that, also in that year and in later years, have been victims of the brutality of intolerance, of a dread of liberty, and a hatred of the shining and loving right to speak.


We gather here in a commemoration that wishes to be a sincere recognition and that also wants to remember the thoughts and the attitudes of those who worked in life in agreement with their convictions, full of joy and vigor, always taking as a banner the freedom and natural right that we all have to enjoy a decent life.  We gather here in an act that wishes to remember the words of the Dylan Thomas poem as an inscription against the dark cave which violence always draws us into: "And Death Shall Have No Dominion."


Héctor Abad Gómez: He had the stubbornness and perseverance of those of whom nature makes exceptional men.  But he had, above all, a gift of humanity, a professionalism and generosity as a public health specialist, and a mental and intellectual capacity of great reach, which made him not only almost essential to our society and its lack of leading and honest hearts, but also, shamefully, a target of the crudest hate.  That which kills uselessly, because ideas and words deeply-rooted in knowledge and liberty, like in the case of Héctor Abad Gómez, are immune to bullets.

Leonardo Betancur Taborda: Was a disciple of Héctor Abad not only in the School of Public Health but also in the public realm as a leader and tribune in the defense of human rights.  In spite of his youth he had a maturity which made him stand out as much for his impetus as a natural leader as for his personality as a good professor and unconditional friend of the causes that involved the wellbeing of the university, of the new generations, and, before all, which involved the struggle for justice and against all types of violence and crime, wherever they came from.


He was assassinated next to Héctor Abad Gómez, and for the same reasons: the brutality and horror of intolerance could not bear the lives of two calls to the wind, free and lucid.  


Pedro Luis Valencia Giraldo: He carried with him the emblem of rebellion like he who wears a flower on his lapel, and as a complement to an inescapable duty in a society that lives with injustice and inequality.  He was killed in a city which, in a determined moment, turned into the empire of impunity and which recovered with violence the defeats that it suffered in the realm of ideas.  Today his memory and the example of his humanistic and solidarity struggles accompany dreams for equality, education, and culture, immersed in the same city where he lived and died.

Luis Fernando Vélez Vélez: "The only enemy is the one with which we can never exercise the sublimation of words and their regenerating force, their reviving power; he is the one with which we can have no dialogue," said Luis Fernando Vélez once.  On his lips that conviction was the truth that would later take his life.  He did not defend the right to speak and freedom for any personal desire, but rather because he understood that the lack of the two made lacking, up to the point of begging, of an entire society.  He was a lawyer, and anthropologist, theologian, professor, and indigenist, to have languages with which to communicate the need to be free and have reasons in life to laugh, to be friends.


Those who killed him from the shadows, as they killed so many others of his stock and vehemence to love, will never understand that which is the sublime nature of the right to speak.  That is, in truth, the worst evil that afflicts us.  


Friday, August 17, 10:00 a.m. Barrientos Square

  • Héctor Abad Gómez Chair of Civic Formation: "A contribution to the construction of civility," by the writer William Ospina.
  • Inauguration of the commemorative exposition "And Death Shall Have No Dominion."  Administrative Block, Main Library, School of Medicine and School of Public Health

Wednesday, August 22, 11:00 a.m.  School of Medicine Auditorium

  • Presentation from the book, Letters from Asia, by Héctor Abad Gómez, with a foreword by Alberto Aguirre. Guests: lawyer Carlos Gaviria Díaz, and writer and journalist Juan José Hoyos Naranjo.
  • Presentation from bulletin U–235. Guest: public health specialist Fabio Henao Acevedo, teacher from the Department of Preventive Medicine of the School of Medicine of the University of Antioquia.   
  • Concert – musical group, School of Medicine – Director: Said Hurtado

Friday, August 24, 10:00 a.m. Auditorium, University of Antioquia


  • Main conference: "Human Rights or the struggle for dignity", by Juan Pablo Corlazzoli, Representative in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • Presentation of the Memories of the Chair Héctor Abad Gómez: "A contribution to the construction of civility", led by the rector of the University of Antioquia, Alberto Uribe Correa.
  • Biographical sketches of the four human rights defenders, by Carlos Gaviria Díaz (Héctor Abad Gómez), Julio González Zapata (Luis Fernando Vélez Vélez), Carlos Alberto Giraldo Giraldo (Leonardo Betancur Taborda) and Álvaro Olaya (Pedro Luis Valencia Giraldo).
  • Cultural Event: pianist Teresita Gómez.
  • Concert – musical group, School of Medicine – Director: Said Hurtado

As of September 11, commemorative traveling exposition, "And Death Shall Have No Dominion": Library parks: Santo Domingo, La Quintana, La Ladera, San Javier and Belén.

August 17 to September 8: Books and texts exposition, Main Library University of Antioquia.

August 8 to September 10: exposition "From greatness to intimacy", University Museum, culture room.

Thursday, August 16, 7:00 p.m.; Saturday 25, 12:00 m., and Monday 27, 7:00 p.m.: special "Thinking in a loud voice", radio program that Héctor Abad Gómez managed between 1982 and 1987, by the Cultural Station, University of Antioquia – System of Educational Radio.

From July 23 and during the month of August: Commemorative special "And Death Shall Have No Dominion", hypermedia channel at <> .


  • Book, Letters from Asia, by Héctor Abad Gómez (University of Antioquia Rectory and Héctor Abad Gómez Corporation for Education and Public Health)
  • Memoirs of the Chair Héctor Abad Gómez: "A contribution to the construction of civility" (University of Antioquia Rectory, Schools of Medicine and Public Health, and Héctor Abad Gómez Corporation for Education and Public Health, with the sponsorship of the Mayor’s Office of Medellin – Secretary of Civic Culture)
  • Bulletin U-235 (Department of Preventive Medicine of the School of Medicine of the University of Antioquia).

Conveners and Organizers:

  • University of Antioquia
  • Rectory
  • School of Medicine
  • National School of Public Health
  • System of Libraries
  • University Museum
  • Héctor Abad Gómez Corporation for Education and Public Health
  • Mayor’s Office of Medellin – Secretary of Civic Culture


  • School of Law and Political Science
  • Cultural Station, University of Antioquia – System of Educational Radio
  • Department of Audiovisual Services
  • Department of News and Press
  • Cultural Agenda Alma Máter  
  • Communication Systems Altair
  • Photojournalist Jesús Abad Colorado

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