Departmental Committee of Victims of the Armed Conflict in Antioquia
(Translated by Emily Hansen)
Medellin, February 5, 2010
To achieve reconciliation in this country, it is necessary to speak of truth, justice, reparations, and the prevention of repetition. It is because of this that we, the victims of Antioquia, raise our voices to demonstrate what these rights have signified for us.
The truth is the opportunity for the rights that we as victims possess to become reality. The national government has failed this truth when it turns its back on fact, authorizing the extradition of the Paramilitary ringleaders and thereby trying to silence their participation and responsibility of the acts of victimization of the Colombian population. These acts make it clear that neither the national government nor the North American governments are disposed to help clear up the truth.
Today, in the Department of Antioquia, the work of armed groups is latent and the authorities strive to be unaware of the actions of the Paramilitary groups making these acts look like those of emergent and delinquent groups, when the actions were really part of a process of very unclear and partial demobilization that benefit the victimizers more than the victims and the society of this country. Because of this we believe that the law of justice and peace is a law of impunity where until today not even one single person has been condemned for these acts. Some even continue to commit criminal offenses from inside prison as part of alliances with corrupt officials, not to mention the criminals who are free and unreachable by the victims because of a lack of resources. Those victims that do persecute the criminals have no form of security. Moreover, the system has failed – the victims inquire and the victimizer evades the answer, or on the contrary re-victimizes the victims, making the victims feel responsible for the deaths of their loved ones and making the perpetrators look like heroes.
The policy of the national government has been so contrary in the recognition of the rights of the victims of the Colombian armed conflict, and has been so in favor of the Paramilitaries and the perpetrators that it has done nothing positive: the government has not suffered one single political cost of its actions, and 14 Paramilitaries Chiefs have been extradited and will continue to evade telling the truth regarding the implication of politicians close to the government and its policy of democratic security.
Meanwhile, the government approves, through Presidential decree, the administrative reparation as a misleading distraction, using the situation of extreme poverty that the majority of the victims find themselves in to offer a sum of money for the forfeiture of our integral rights. In addition to the bad intention of dividing and stigmatizing the movement of the victims, the world of the victims was not included in the decree, and the victims of crimes of the State were radically excluded. As if this were not enough, the President of the Republic and his cabinet is striving to destroy the proposal of integral reparations of the victims: The Victims’ Statute, an essential proposal of reparation that generated real conditions for the fight for the restitution of lands and goods. Fundamental right – structural problem, because we are conscious that the lands and the goods are themselves the principle reasons we find ourselves involved in armed conflict, because behind every shot and every armed confrontation there are economic and political interests of territorial control.
It is not possible to talk of repetition prevention when the violent acts have not yet ceased and it is evident that the armed forces have control of our territories. While the truth still remains hidden and does not come to public light, while there is not true justice, while the state does not assume responsibility for this conflict, while there is not equality, the idea of preventing repetition becomes an imaginary one.
Today, speaking of reconciliation is difficult and unrealistic. If we take into account what is currently occurring in the country we begin see and feel the reconciliation as a very distant horizon. The government and its actions and proposals generate confusion, fear and distrust amongst us, the civil population, and create a supposed calm that oppresses us.
In the reconciliation it is not possible to realize processes of peace without justice, and the horrors of the war must be paid for. With out peace and accountability the door will be open for these acts to repeat themselves. How can we think of reconciling ourselves without transparency, without conditions and guarantees of protection in the middle of the lie that we are living, where the structures of war remain installed on our territories in new ways? Reconciliation is part of a process of recuperation of dignity, a personal option, where pardon is not imposition, nor an excuse to hide the pain, fear and resentment we have felt. We will continue relying on forgiveness because to do so is beneficial and healthier for our existence. This process can come to fruition or not depending on each person, and especially depending on the political and social wills that work to make our rights tangible.
The reconciliation should be recognized as a process that contemplates an integral vision of what is human and implicates the search for equality and social compromise, and the respect for the lives and integrity of others. In this way confidences between society, the victims, and the State can be constructed. Reconstructing confidence implies a change in the attitude of those involved (especially of those that have created the war) and requires counting on a true State of law that implies working for equality and inclusion.
In the future, if there are guarantees for talking without fear, without feeling ourselves used, deceived, pressured, without them buying our silence and offering our children to become involved in the conflict as informants, we will be able to approach the other face of the enemy and call for them to clear up these acts. This will only be possible if the will of change is acted upon and we do not continue responding to a structure of war. With such an asymmetric relationship between victims and victimizers in the middle of the lie and the impunity, reconciliation is unrealistic.
Men and women, we have the challenge of seeking strategies that bring us reconciliation and of fortifying the process of truth, justice and reparations. We demand that these events do not repeat themselves. All of this will ensure the beginning of reconciliation, and the right to enjoy dignified life.