EL ESPECTADOR, October 5, 2020

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Truth Commission will also verify the testimony of the former commanders of the now-defunct guerrillas with regard to the murders of Álvaro Gómez Hurtado, Jesús Bejarano, General Fernando Landazábal, Pablo Emilio Guarín, Hernando Pizarro, and Fedor Rey.

After the eight former commanders of the now-defunct FARC sent the Special Jurisdiction for Peace a communication in which they accepted early on their responsibility for the killings of the conservative politician Álvaro Gómez Hurtado, the economist and professor Jesús Bejarano, General Fernando Landazábal, Congressional Representative Pablo Emilio Guarín, and the former guerrillas Hernando Pizarro and José Fedor Rey, the Truth Commission announced on Monday, October 5, that “it would immediately communicate with the relatives” of the victims, as well as with organizations affected by the events.

The Truth Commission, as a member of the transitional justice system, as well as the JEP and the Unit for the Search for the Disappeared, has the task of explaining what happened in Colombia’s armed conflict, and why it happened. For that reason, they will also “listen to the members of the FARC and compare their testimony with that of other persons and groups that wish to contribution to this investigation. The Commission will make findings in its final report,” explained the Commission’s communication.

In addition, the Commission invited “those others who are directly or indirectly responsible, to admit other painful but necessary truths in the search for a Colombia that is reconciled. It asked that different sectors of society support and protect this process with a constructive spirit, respecting our institutions for the good of democracy.”

The Commission, after two decades of a legal system that obtained no results, is finally beginning to understand who committed those murders and why they committed them, in spite of the fact that the response by civil society, and even by the families of the victims, is refusal to believe the admissions of the former FARC commanders.

For example, Álvaro Gómez Hurtado’s nephew, also the family’s lawyer, Enrique Gómez Martínez told El Espectador: “The cynicism of our leaders and the government’s manipulation are limitless. The regime lent itself to that and it has managed to recruit the FARC to save Samper’s face.” This after they spread the version that the murder of the conservative leader was orchestrated by Former President Ernesto Samper and other members of that administration, such as Horacio Serpa. Versions that up to now have not been checked out.

Fr. Francisco de Roux, President of the Commission, told El Espectador that they are aware of the lawsuit by the Gómez family, “very sophisticated and very publicly crafted,” just as they have listened to former President Samper, who has participated in a number of voluntary contributions to the truth in that Commission.

De Roux also said that they understand that, because of the situation that this country is in, truths are rejected at first. Nevertheless, “honestly, I believe that the people of the FARC are behaving conscientiously, not playing games. When you accept these responsibilities you are putting yourself in peril. They have already murdered 221 people, including the one they murdered yesterday, and by this the former commanders are putting themselves in extreme danger, with all of the hate that there is. Secondly, you are not going to give out, in front of the world community, this country, and your family, that you have been part of an assassination like that of Álvaro Gómez that was so painful for this country, because it just occurred to you to play a game. Those men are risking everything, and I have no doubt about that. So they delayed? Of course they delayed; sometimes it takes a long time to accept the truth, first telling yourself the truth, and then making it public.”

Besides that, he repeated the call to the society to “listen with respect, because if we don’t all tell ourselves the truth, we will never get to the other side. But also to have great respect for the victims. That is what we are concerned about, and that’s why we are turning to the families. That inevitably produces a revictimization for the victim, who feels indignation, rage, a demand for justice, and that has to be listened to with the greatest respect.”

The priest emphasized that it’s not enough to admit responsibility, because “what is expected is the truth, the actions, the motives, the intentions, the form, the assumptions that they made about certain victims, the reason they did it in that manner,” and he clarified that those subjects, like the assassination of Álvaro Gómez, the massacre at Tacueyó, and other events like the murder of the Council members at Rivera (Huila Province) are not black and white. There are contradictory truths.

In the case of Gómez Hurtado, as related by Colombia 2020, they say that the guerrillas’ motivation for assassinating him had to do with the fact that their top commander, Manuel Marulanda, had never forgiven the conservative politician for the speech he made in the Congress in 1961, where he called on Armed Forces to intervene in what he called “independent republics”, meaning places where the government had no control and where groups of campesinos had organized  and had remained outside the amnesty processes in the ‘50’s.

In the same way, El Espectador was able to investigate the assassinations of Jesús Antonio Bejarano, who was the negotiator with the Coordinated Guerrillas. It was said that he was the one responsible for the bombardment of Casa Verde, the headquarters of the FARC Secretariat.

With regard to the assassinations of José Fedor Rey in 2002 and Hernando Pizarro Leongómez in 1995, the story is that it was revenge for the massacre of Tacueyó, in which they killed 164 members of the troop that was leading a FARC dissident group called Comando Ricardo Franco, because they all had been alleged to be infiltrators or traitors.

In the case of Representative Pablo Emilio Guarín, the former guerrillas told this newspaper that it had to do with the fact that he had created the Association of Campesinos and Cattle Ranchers of Magdalena Medio (ACDEFAM), which helped to create and expand paramilitary groups. And they held General Fernando Landazábal responsible for propagating the doctrine of the “internal enemy.”

Now the information will be dealt with by the Truth Commission and by the JEP, where it’s to be expected that the Justices of this high court will next explain the path they plan to take to deal with these crimes that were committed in the framework of Colombia’s armed conflict.

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