City of Bogota, September 27, 2010
(Translated by Diana Méndez, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor)
DIEGO PALACIO BETANCOURT,
Even though I did not directly receive the letter you published through the media a few days ago, a number of friends have sent me the text and others suggested I seek it out in El Colombiano daily in its September 16 edition.
The crux of your writing is a criticism of the letter I wrote to Father John Dear, an American Jesuit very involved in peace and justice activities, in which I expressed my surprise at the University of Georgetown, an educational center of our religious congregation in Washington, having asked the former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez to teach there. In my mind, he developed politics based on principles, behaviors, strategies and guidelines which are incompatible with universal ethics. While Father John Dear is not actually linked to Georgetown University, I went to him as a well known and trusted friend, so that he may communicate my concerns to the superiors of the company in the US and to the University’s directors. Since the matter was public and it scandalized many thousands of people, not only in Colombia, but also in many other countries, it became necessary to make the criticisms public also.
You felt yourself alluded to, even though I did not mention you by name, in the paragraph about the corrupt mechanisms that surrounded the re-election of the president in 2006. There you claim innocence and say that “in some cases justice has been politicized and politics made a judicial matter.” I would say that not just in some cases, but rather, that this is a systemic practice, which I have spoken out against a multitude of times. I ask that you read my request for petition to the high courts of January 19, 2009, a 180-page document in which I carefully demonstrated the rottenness of the system of justice in Urabá and asked for, in an urgent manner, that a “state of unconstitutionality” be declared in Urabá. And should you wish to go deeper into this rottenness, I invite you to read my book, “Rifle or Toga, Toga and Rifle,” in which the politicization of justice and the making of politics into a judicial matter is thoroughly documented. You discuss it in your case, but it surprises me enormously that an ex minister which was part of a government which politicized justice and adjudicated politics for eight years to a scandalous degree, only discovered said perversion when it affected him personally.
Leaving aside, . Palacio, ex President Uribe’s attempts to co-opt all of the organs of the judicial and disciplinary [penal] apparatus, with sights undeniably set on neutralizing decisions which affected him and his government, going so far as to label “terrorists” or “politickers” the government workers which did not submit, regardless of whether they were Supreme Court magistrates. Yet what most debased the administration of justice, especially in the outskirts, was that it was controlled and executed by the executive through military brigades, police districts and security organisms which the Presidency had recourse to, this strategy placed the judicial system at the service of unnamable interests. Everything points to, Dr. Palacio, the fact that you ignore the thousands of thousands of tragedies and all of the suffering that these policies brought to the humble homes of peasants, urban workers, indigenous people; people involved in stigmatized organizations and social movements and opposition militants. In this model of “justice” adulterated and debased, the executive branch imposed the probationary system of the single testimony, manipulating it through blackmail, torture, threat and above all bribery. It relied upon a policy of rewards which degenerated into a shameless buying off of consciences which affected in a destructive way, the moral patrimony of the country and generalized the principle “everything has a price” which is an undeniable characteristic of the government which came to and end and placed in the antipodes of ethics.
It pains me, Dr. Palacio, that you only perceive the politicization of justice and the making of politics into a judicial matter, in “some cases,” and not as the strategy of the government of which you formed part during eight years. It’s never too late, however, to take note of the circumstances in which we find ourselves trapped and which sometimes blind and immobilize us. I invite you again to read my book, Rifle or Toga, Toga and Rifle so that you may see how this debased “justice” functions in the daily twists and turns of daily life that affects the humble masses of this country.
In the closing section of your letter you, among those who instead of seeking justice seek revenge, while at the same time you appear annoyed by my appealing to ethical principles, which according to you, cannot be claimed exclusively by those who “have already condemned President Uribe.” I suppose that you suggest that ethics exists which agrees with the behavior, guidelines and principles which inspired said government, which I would like to see expounded upon in a healthy debate. Lastly you qualify my denunciations and appeals to ethics as positions of those who do “not embody Christian beliefs or feelings” but rather an ideological position [based on]: “a profound hatred and infinite resentment”
I have asked myself what could have brought you, Dr. Palacio, to edit my writing as inspired by desires for revenge and feelings of hatred. Perhaps you wish to illlegitimize my clamoring for the ethics of our religious institutions, not discussing the veracity or the immorality of the concrete evidence and the policies denounced, but rather elude the debate and attempting to gratuitously stigmatize the person making the denunciations? Perhaps a desire to silence the denouncer, striking a low blow, where it hurts most which are their ethical and religious principles which smack of revenge and hatred? Perhaps the lack of arguments to take apart the realities which are undeniable and of public knowledge, resorting then to the disqualification of those that censure them?
Even though I frequent meetings of victims too scarred by the atrocities which have destroyed them and who do not hide desires for revenge, I have tried always, not only because of religious duties but because of deep belief, to transform the desires for revenge in desires for justice. I have tried to place emphasis in the search for paths which guarantee that the horrors will not be repeated and the correction of behaviors which have led to the extermination of so many lives and the destruction of communities and ways of life. This is very different than the desire than the desire for revenge which wishes to impose equal sufferings on the victimizers. I can say that the vast majority of the victims with whom I share thoughts and feelings, are very far from hatred and revenge which would seek to reproduce sufferings on those responsible for the atrocities [committed]. On the contrary, I tend to always hear from fathers, mothers, wives, children and siblings of the victims, a phrase which has taken on the character of a proverb among our poor and suffering people: “I don’t wish this upon even the most sadistic of the victimizers” (referring to that which has been done unto them).
You, Dr. Palacio, affirm in the closing lines of your letter, that justice should be clamored for, “a prompt, impartial and objective justice.” Is this not what we have been seeking for decades with no success whatsoever? Do you, perhaps, ignore the impunity which affects millions of crimes against humanity, do you ignore also the systematic mechanisms of impunity registered, documented and analyzed by so many national and international bodies?
Before your nonconformism when faced with my denunciations and before the clamoring so that teaching positions not be offered to those who have overseen such corrupt and criminal apparatuses, I cannot understand what it is that you propose. Are you suggesting that we be silent and allow the strategies and behaviors that have destroyed so many people to remain in place without any opposition and more still, that they become models for export? Would you call this silence, this adjustment ethical and Christian practice?
But what I find most difficult to understand in your discourse is the coherence between words and actions. You argue for positions and discourse alien to revenge and hatred, and in this I am in complete agreement with you. But if this is your position and these are your beliefs, how could you remain for eight years as a member of the government of former president Uribe, if one of its most salient characteristics was exactly hatred and revenge?
No one ignores that Dr. Uribe was a victim of the FARC, which as has been told by all the media outlets, his father was assassinated by said insurgent group. Once in a position of control over the direction of the country, his intense desire for revenge was the crux of his security policy, discounting all mutual understanding or dialogue around the social or political objectives of the insurgency and making absolute war to the death which he took to its extreme. The language used for that purpose permanently wounded the sensibilities of huge social swathes and the imaginary military, always wrapped in the emotions of hatred, flooded the media. His pathologic obsession for “security” interpreted in the measure of his hatreds, created a national environment of distrust and generalized prejudice among the citizenry. To perceive a potential enemy behind each compatriot, to populate with costly security and intelligence apparatuses all of the public and private offices, getting them accustomed that if one does not submit one is considered a criminal or terrorist unless the contrary was proven, unable to obtain an official post. The country had to become used to hearing its president inciting to kill over all the radio stations and television networks and that he do so in crude and shameless terms, which made undeniable a radical thirst for revenge. The same way that the macabre spectacle of destroyed and bloody bodies, upon which the government showered praise with interminable celebrations, praise and promotions while the media mercantilized the barbarism without shame.
But the cycles of revenge and hatred did not end with the insurgent groups. You, Dr. Palacio, as a companion of the chief of state during the two consecutive periods and active or passive co-author of all his policies and decisions, know full well that that hatred increasingly affected social movements and opposition groups, those who denounced any atrocity and those who did not share its societal model centered in the power of multinational corporations and the globalizing policies of the United States. He particularly hated movements and organizations which defended and promoted human rights, in whom he saw obstacles to the implementation of his methods of extermination. You know this full well but it is necessary to recall it here: The only way to give this unloading of hatred against social leaders or humanitarians a veneer of legality, was by inventing links with the insurgency so that the legal and/or military-paramilitary apparatus acted against them with sights set on neutralizing or externalizing them. It is within this strategy where the executive branch usurps the functions of the judicial branch or co-opts it. And in this way all around the processes are multiplied in which through capture and years of incarceration those that are captured by the military without any due process, where evidence is fabricated, where demobilized hardened criminals are paid to declare false testimonies. Threat and blackmail are mixed with bribery to achieve acceptance of charges and anticipated sentences. After convincing victims that there is no other way out while judicial workers limit themselves to endorse the military assembly, trampling all of the principles of due process, internal codes and international rights. It is perhaps superfluous to remind you of these mechanisms, in which you took part in the most elevated political circles for eight years and which you are almost certainly more familiar with these strategies from their source. I have no doubt that you participated in the discussion of the Ministerial Permanent Directive No. 29 of November 17, 2005 in which the extermination of human lives is rated in terms of differential sums of money, since if you had disapproved or disagreed with these, it would be logical to expect your resignation, which never occurred.
Do you think, Dr. Palacio, that the attitude of the former president Uribe before the Peace community of San Jose de Apartado was not based in deep feelings of hatred? How do you explain that he never took any measures whatsoever to protect that population from the continual massacres, extra-judicial executions, forced disappearances, forced displacements, indiscriminate bombing, sexual abuses, lootings, pillaging, theft of work animals, of farm animals, burning down of homes, crop destruction, death threats, persistent extermination notices and many other atrocities, all perpetrated by direct or indirect agents of the State, since the paramilitaries worked side by side with the army, coordinating their movements and even eat lunch together all within the sights of their victims? Even though Dr. Uribe was given detailed and prompt information regarding each crime, why do you think that he eluded during eigh years in which you were by his side during every control and protection action, such as you are ordered to be by specific precepts in the National Constitution? Still more, why do you think Dr. Uribe slandered the Peace Community, on five different occasions, and these were disseminated by all the mainstream media? He did not retract even though it was demonstrated that his action was in violation of what is laid out by the constitutional court in its sentence T-1191/04? Perhaps you would argue, Dr. Palacio, as has been argued by many of your cronies, that former president Uribe cannot be made responsible for the many lamentable things that occurred during his government and over which he would not have had decision-making power. Even so, all of the procedures and strategies that I mentioned in my letter to Father John Dear, constituted articulated elements of policies consciously designed, many times denounced but stubbornly maintained active or passively, going against constitutional precepts which make the Chief of State the supreme guarantor of constitutional rights. Today universal justice, staying a step ahead of the elusion of responsibility of responsibility in numerous genocides throughout history, has more rigorously defined the responsibility of governance, identifying the roll of one that directs a criminal apparatus without giving a single concrete order to commit a crime, but knowing that the machinery that they direct and control, through its various mechanisms, commits them wholesale. In reality, the judicial order observed by international tribunals establishes that a person may be held responsible for the results of an action as if it were their own, even though they did not personally commit the crime, when the duty to prevent the action can was legally necessary. The Colombian Constitution leaves no doubt regarding this.
Surely, Dr. Palacio, it is very difficult for me to understand that you recommended attitudes alien to hatred and revenge, after having taken part in the highest instances of a government that has gone down in history as a model of hatred and revenge made power. And worse, still, that you accuse me of holding feelings of hatred or revenge for expressing my disagreement with this model being made exportable through naïve academic programs that would cover it up. You know full well that my words were a sound in the desert, since Dr. Uribe gave his conferences in any case, at Georgetown, where finally the power of reason was imposed. I am used to clamoring in the desert, in a world and society that every day increasingly takes on the idea that “everything can be bought,” since it has been inoculated with such fear of thinking and being different from what is affirmed and permitted by power, that passivity and adjustment to the status quo has become routine, no matter how atrocious this may be.
Javier Giraldo Moreno, S.J.
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