By Alfonso Luna Geller*, EL ESPECTADOR, March 29, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The war has returned to Colombia. The country is totally at loose ends. The administration’s failed strategy of public order is victimizing Cauca.
The people that live in Corinto Municipality in northern Cauca Province, and in general all over the Province, are once again victims of the armed mafias that sow terror, with the purpose of keeping the people afraid, while they are doomed to an unusual electoral campaign next year to select the next President and the members of Congress.
We can’t ignore the fact that because of Cauca’s natural riches and its strategic geographical position, this region has always had to suffer the barbarism of the violence that the “narcos”, the hit men, illegal miners even, the left (guerrillas), and the right (paramilitaries), have imposed while disputing the illegal revenues.
The gangsters have come to occupy and control the countryside, where, suspiciously, by the plain and routine calamities and abandonment that the communities, as well as their regional and local administrative authorities, have to endure, the Armed Forces and the Police appear to have lost their capacity and their competence for guaranteeing the safety and the lives of the victims. In the end, they are the ones that are stigmatized by the simple fact that they are Caucanos, campesinos, and their skin is a little darker or coppery.
The improvisation is very evident; the lack of planning, the lack of systematic prosecution of crimes. The military and the police are always being surprised. It seems that military and police intelligence do not exist; nor strategic or tactical operations, because they have been replaced by useless security councils which, because of their lack of foresight, make repeated but fruitless snap decisions, based on intuition, and they solve nothing.
Worse yet, now they are warming up to the possibility of participating in partisan politics, with a chance to vote in favor of the governing party. How’s that going to work? The last straw?
But the problem is not just in Cauca. The geopolitical, administrative and public order chaos that this country is suffering at the hands of the Duque administration is commonplace in all of the regions, in spite of the early alerts on imminent risks that the Public Defender’s Office and some international organizations distribute.
These days they are not just killing and displacing people in Argelia, in southern Cauca; in the District (corregimiento) of El Palo, in Caloto, where they kidnapped and murdered an official from the Attorney General’s Office, because it’s the gangsters that are putting up the checkpoints; in Caldono, Toribío, or Suárez, in northern Cauca, or in Timbiquí, on the Pacific coast, where there has been simultaneous intimidation.
Besides that, they have been killing and displacing people mercilessly on the Venezuelan frontier, just a little after the bombardment in Guaviare where even children were killed; in Catatumbo, in Antioquia, everywhere. And to round off this period, just like nearly every weekend, another massacre, this time in Cartago, in northern Valle del Cauca Province.
Colombia, and especially Cauca Province, is in a humanitarian crisis because of the brutality, causing people to set aside the danger of the rising contagion of the coronavirus, and the shambles of the vaccination program for its prevention.
And on that point, we need to recognize that the Cauca Provincial Government, under the leadership of Elías Larrahondo Carabalí, and the municipal mayors, with their limited resources, are confronting the chaos with social investment and effort.
We are witnesses to the fact that the Governor is now working from Popayán, but yesterday and the day before, he accompanied the people from Caldono, he was in Corinto, in Silvia, in Buenos Aires. Every day he has had to take on and try in person to find solutions for the delicate situation of Argelia in the south, and of Toribío in the other extreme of the Province, or on the Pacific coast. That’s routine for these mayors with their respective administrative teams. But it’s something that goes unnoticed and, as a result, the nation’s capital doesn’t value it. It’s because of that that the local officials have gained the solidarity and support of the abused inhabitants.
The national government only shows up to make bombastic and opportunistic declarations in the smoldering streets of our towns; not before.
“Gangsters, criminals, and terrorists.” “The coward always has terrorism as a weapon to try to create turmoil in the communities, and here we know that the ones that are behind this attack are the bandits of the ‘Dagoberto Ramos’ gang. We are fighting them, and we will keep fighting them wherever they may be, because these cowardly acts against the community are unforgivable,” Duque promised last Saturday in Corinto. The Chief Executive emphasized that they are going to destroy the Mobile Column ‘Dagoberto Ramos’, and ‘Jaime Martínez’ completely, as well as all of the dissident cells that are troubling the civilian population and the Armed Forces.
We hope so. But fundamentally, it’s not goals, challenges, and calls to battle, to definitive confrontation, that’s needed. It’s not with proposals like arming the civilian population, not taking advantage of the violence to say, as another opportunist maintained, that we need to go back to the angry “democratic security” (the one with 6, 402 innocent victims, and a lot more). That would be like throwing gasoline on a fire.
Furthermore, in particular, it calls attention to how instantly the government discovered the criminals that were capable of these terrorist acts, while generally, the investigations about those responsible for other atrocious crimes that are consuming Colombia takes forever, with bogged down legal and investigative processes that also, ordinarily, end up with impunity.
Desperate, civil society even has the courage to call on all of the armed actors present in the region, including the FARC dissidents, the EPL, the ELN, and the paramilitaries, to stop their fighting and reach a humanitarian agreement that could guarantee the safety of the civilian population.
And the government’s answer ought to be a real commitment to a public policy aimed at enabling the communities, which are trying to overcome social and economic inequality, to receive support for counterbalancing, through a guarantee of their right not to have the illegal drug trafficking economies remain in these territories in Cauca, where they support criminal activities.
What’s appalling is that the most recent terrorist attack happened when the residents of Corinto were recovering from the ravages that resulted from the floodwaters from rivers in the area. They destroyed several houses and left some 60 families homeless in the upper part of the municipality, when they were already having a hard time because of the pandemic. While they were dreaming of a short season of peace, they saw that everything had turned to a nightmare again.
The communities of Cauca also are asking the government for the preservation and real implementation of the Peace Agreement, and for protection by the agencies created to guarantee justice, truth, reparation, and no repetition, and that the government not get worn out and do harm to the whole nation with its lack of interest in achieving that. The communities know that that attitude is obedient to interests with selfish power, who want to keep things just as they are so they can continue getting rich in the sea of corruption into which they have converted this government.
To summarize, the Duque administration, using surreptitious manipulation, tries to disrupt the normal development of agencies to benefit his political movement; and to accommodate all of his friends in positions of control and oversight, while he converts the delegates in embassies into a political directorate of his allies. Meanwhile in the region, Governor Larrahondo is meeting the goals of the Development Plan, directed to defending lives, human rights, and to constructing peace. Hoping, anonymous, almost solitary, with effective answers through productive procedures, education and health, and with the tenacity of every one of the people that live in Corinto and in Cauca in general; people that are trying to overcome the repeated attacks and aggressions of those who don’t want to see the implementation of the peace.
We keep hoping for clear and precise answers, without clueless speeches, from the national government and the entire luxuriant portfolio of public entities designed and structured for those ends only.
* Director of Proclama del Cauca (Cauca Calling)