IN DEFENSE OF VIRGILIO BARCO He would never have considered a proposal that was not in conformity with the security of all of the citizens.

By Rafael Pardo Rueda, El Tiempo, January 13, 2021

Barco doesn’t need to defend himself; neither does he need anyone to defend him. But with such an accusation as the one made by a journalist 35 years after the conclusion of his administration, and with nearly all of the protagonists now dead, he definitely deserves to have someone make several points clear.

I served in two public positions in the administration of Virgilio Barco. I was Director of the National Rehabilitation Plan (PNR) and I was the Councilor for Peace. For the last three years, I served on the Board of Directors of Ecopetrol.

I don’t recall any Rafi Eitan, nor do I remember meetings of any kind. And if they existed, I can guarantee that, contrary to the inexplicable motivations of the journalist that wrote the column, Virgilio Barco never would have considered a proposal that was not in conformity with the security of each and every one of the citizens of Colombia.

So Virgilio Barco was behind the extermination of the Patriotic Union? There was no Pablo Escobar, no Rodríguez Gacha, no Rodríguez Orejuela, nor all of the narcos? Delusional.

Barco was in favor of peace. It was the consequence of a visit to the Casa Verde (Green House), which at that time was the headquarters of the now-defunct FARC, before Barco’s inauguration. López Michelsen, Cesar Gaviria, and some others were there. The purpose was to give the FARC the message that the new administration was in favor of peace.

Barco appointed, if I’m not wrong, I don’t remember, 15 mayors from the Patriotic Union Party. At that time, the President could freely appoint, through the Governors, the mayors of all of the municipalities. He created the Special Commandos, under the National Police, to oppose the paramilitaries.

He revoked Guillermo León Valencia’s decree that authorized the “self-defense forces”. He appointed Alfonso Gómez as Inspector General after he had appointed him to the slate of eligibles and then to the position. Gómez Mendez had been a Representative in the Chamber for the Patriotic Union Party.

From the different positions I held, I can testify to the integrity and honor of all of the instructions we received, not only when I worked in the PNR but also as Councilor of Peace and on the Ecopetrol Board of Directors. For that reason I can’t think of any other area that would be connected with this alleged and supposed aide.

It’s infamous to accuse President Barco of this monstrous act when the governing principle of his administration was exactly the opposite: life and not death. That was exactly what he provided in one of the principal achievements of his administration,   peace with M-19.

The source that is mentioned in the story has to go to the Truth Commission and to the JEP, because such a serious accusation is unconscionable and must be tested for the dishonor that it suggests against a government that had to confront perhaps the worst violence in our country. Or maybe he forgets the all-out combat of the drug trafficking mafias that were the ones that created and escalated paramilitarism in those years?

It’s a pity that we can’t count on the memories of Guillermo Perry, or of Germán Montoya. Or of Horacio Serpa Uribe and Low Murtra. Or even of Carlos Ossa and Virgilio Barco himself, so that we could demand that the perpetrator of this fantastical story prove his outrage.

Rafael Pardo Rueda

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