EL ESPECTADOR, June 23, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The Truth Commission has opened a space for dialog from Madrid (Spain), where they discussed the progress in the investigation of the extermination of the Patriotic Union Party. The JEP is advancing some results that will speak of a “complex apparatus” against the militants, an apparatus that included officials of the government.
“There is a reality here that is going to turn into something hard to dispute. It is the dimensions of what the Patriotic Union militants suffered; it’s much more than what has been told. Something of these dimensions could not have taken place without the existence of a complex apparatus with many levels, for preparation, for execution, and for covering up the events.”
That was one of the statements by Justice Gustavo Salazar of the JEP, at a Truth Commission event held in Madrid (Spain). At noon on this June 23, Salazar and two members of the Commission were talking about the extermination of the Patriotic Union, a political party of the left that was massacred in the ‘80’s. Ever since 2014, it has been possible to establish that between the “paras” and agents of the government, two Presidential candidates, eight members of Congress, 13 Deputies, 70 Council members, 11 mayors, and around 5,000 militants were murdered.
The JEP and the Truth Commission are sister agencies, together with the Unit for the Search for Disappeared Persons. They were conceived with the Peace Agreement between the now-extinct FARC and the Juan Manuel Santos government. The Commission will deliver a final report with the results of its investigation of the armed conflict, and, for its part, the JEP has opened macro-case 006, relating to the victimization of the members of the Patriotic Union Party.
Justice Gustavo Salazar asserted that, in order to understand the extermination of the UP, it’s necessary to understand the criminality as an entirety. There was tremendous difficulty in his investigation, given that the events date back more than three decades and many of the people involved or mentioned are now dead. Even so, witnesses more than 75 years old have appeared before the JEP.
“All of that legal material has been treated in an unfocused way. The question is “was there a sole organized apparatus?”, “was there a network of organized machinery?’, explained Justice Salazar. According to the Justice, what the JEP has done is to prioritize a series of subcases into historical periods and specific areas. The result of that task permits the recognition that there was a “complex apparatus”. Moreover, there are cases where people involved in the crimes against the UP have ended up being mentioned in the files on extrajudicial executions in the decade beginning in 2000.
“In case 006, we have dealt with both victims and witnesses. We have found thousands of witness statements, investigations, and testimony in the ordinary justice system, and also in the Peace and Justice system. That has been one of the centers for the collection of information. You rarely find the “smoking gun” that reveals the whole apparatus; that only happens in CSI (the television series); in real life it’s summing up little pieces of truth that you can weave together ( … ) we have found thousands of documents, within hundreds of judicial inspections, that reveal to some extent or other the possible responsibility of government entities,” added Justice Salazar.
For his part, Alejandro Valencia, a member of the Truth Commission, says that the trail has been complicated, but that there are advances that Colombians will learn of soon. He explained that, besides clarifying the truth of what happened, the Commission has been assigned to try to obtain recognition of collective responsibilities. The demobilized members of the FARC have carried out their commitment, according to Valencia, but the government officials have put up all manner of obstruction.
“There are people that are totally passive and unbelieving about what has happened in Colombia. Some are indifferent, and don’t believe in the Peace agencies. The work with business owners was extremely difficult; they don’t admit any responsibility. They only ask if they can be recognized as victims. It’s also difficult to have a conversation with opposition sectors or indifferent sectors. For example, the ex-President, Álvaro Uribe Vélez said right out in the open that he would not attend the Truth Commission because it was the product of a spurious Peace Agreement that resulted in ‘losing a plebiscite’,” added Valencia.
Commission member Alejandro Valencia emphasized that they have already prepared an initial systematization on the UP case. In the report that the Truth Commission will present to Colombia, there will be a special chapter on the case of the exiles, who left the country because of the persecution of the political party, which recovered its legal capacity in 2013. Valencia hopes that national and international allies follow up on the final report, so as to assure the government’s implementation of its recommendations. “The recommendations are the key to no repetition,” he concluded.
Finally, Commission member Carlos Beristain has faith that the institutions and the citizens will follow the Commission’s recommendations, but that depends on political will and on social mobilization around finding the truth. “The truth is not assimilated because a report is published. That also depends on following up on what it has provided, which are the policies that result from coming to terms with the truth. The report is not just to be left sitting on a shelf, it hopes to move around. So that there will be a different framework in talking about all of these things,” he said.