Between 26th and 28th July 2007 a huge crowd gathered in Bogotá — women, small farmers, Afro-Colombians, indigenous people, displaced people, trade unionists, relatives of the victims of murder, kidnapping or forced disappearance — to meet and get to know each other, and to seek ways to solve their problems. Among them was Professor Gustavo Moncayo, who had been walking from his birthplace Nariño, on the southwest border with Ecuador, since mid-June, appealing for freedom for his son, a policeman kidnapped by the main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in 1997. A report of what he said is given below and includes a call for a humanitarian agreement –– which is supported by the European Union and international human rights organisations — between all sides in the conflict in Colombia.
( Translated by Dan Baird, a CSN translator)
Moncayo: lessons from a teacher
By Mauricio Rodriguez
Professor Moncayo’s words in the Plaza de Bolívar are not only moving: they demonstrate the passion and clarity of a man who knows clearly what he wants to see and who sees what Colombia needs to achieve peace.
Undoubtedly tired, and pausing at times like a man on an extremely long road, Professor Moncayo spoke to us in a conversational way, as he would talk between lessons to a group of pupils, more like a teacher than a professor. He told us how in the the loneliness and indifference he experienced on his first days on the road towards the humanitarian agreement, his only companions — together with his daughter — were the mountains and the deep valleys, the cold and the rays of sunlight that lit the way. These were his companions – and his greatest hope.
And this was his first lesson: that we should learn to observe. We should observe the magic and the majesty both of our natural riches and of our people, of the people’s solidarity amidst the poverty in which thousands of families live. One of these families had invited him, as night came, to share their simple meal. “This is what we are”, he said. “We are a people of great heart and solidarity, darkened by misery and lack of vision”. On his way, Moncayo had seen the problems of our hospitals, schools and colleges, the shacks beside great avenues, the exploitation of children and, again and again, the sheer misery. But everywhere there was also the fraternal embrace, human solidarity, love, and respect for the teacher’s cause.
His second lesson: to learn to listen, to compel ourselves to listen, to want to listen. He told us how, without it being suggested to them, the police admit that they act in the interests of capital and against the people. In conversation they can be brought to understand that they too are among the millions of Colombians who suffer from neglect, low salaries and unemployment. The police understand that they are really part of those who often resort to marches and street protests, but whom — with clubs, black shields, tear gas and water dye — they disperse in the name of sacred liberty and order.
The third lesson: the people should stand up with dignity. Step by step, he had realised that the original reason for his walk had changed. No longer was it the freeing of his son or of all those who had been kidnapped. He told us that what was developing now was his proposal for a humanitarian agreement, and that the Colombian people — in contrast to the complicit and deathly silence of the guerillas and the President — has an obligation to stand up with dignity and demand peace and to demand the humanitarian agreement. This, he said, would come about
if the guerillas renounced their weapons and if the budget which [President] Uribe begs from the rest of the world was invested to solve the country’s social problems. The people have the responsibility for peace, because they have the responsibility for changing history.
Moncayo will remain in the Plaza de Bolívar, because his long walk has brought him here, but his final goal is the humanitarian agreement. And this will be better preparation for the rest of us. From time to time, we can go and talk with the teacher, we can enjoy a conversation with him. We can observe, listen and talk, to go on learning both his new and his old lessons.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621