By Francisco Gutiérrez Sanin, EL ESPECTADOR, January 20, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The statements made by Benito Osorio, revealed by Noticias Caracol, are at the same time true and terrifying. The station pointed out two elements of the many they contained. The first is the extraordinarily excessive cruelty with which the paramilitaries attacked the campesinos in order to evict them from their property and eject them from their land. Osorio says that he eventually turned into a “pyromaniac”, because it was so very satisfying to see the victims’ houses go up in flames.

The second is that this didn’t occur by happenstance, or because a couple of guys’ or gals’ hearts had gone astray in the tempestuous course of the war. This was part of a power structure, anchored in a substantial way to extensive cattle ranching, and intimately related to the government’s security agencies and important civilian bureaucracies. Mancuso corroborates it, mentioning Fedegán[1] and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which he treated as “a kind of political and military guild, which had reaches into Colombian society you could not imagine”. Very true. And not because there was any lack of evidence, but because our horizon of political and social imagination had been blockaded to an incredible extent.

In fact, Mancuso and Osorio are talking with detailed knowledge of the motive. Benito Osorio was the Secretary of Government in Córdoba Department—and, as such, the unapologetic promoter of the Convivir, along with his counterpart in Antioquia, Pedro Juan Moreno—,  manager of the Antioquia Livestock Fund[2] in his department, and finally, Acting Governor by Uribe’s decision. He is familiar with the details of the internal mechanisms within the dense networks of business and political power of those who belonged to them (and helped build them). Many might be tempted to think that the terrible deeds he complains of were done on a sort of impulse. But no. As he himself says, his record was public knowledge; everybody knew about it. The massacres and plunders had taken place in large numbers and under our noses. They were covered up precisely because of their massive character and because of the general complicity, factors without which those atrocities would never have been possible.

There are a number of immediate reflections that emerge from this episode. The first is that this is not just one more complaint about corruption or unsavory events out of the many that we’re bombarded with every day; this is an informed confession that speaks about the nature of political power in our country. The plain and simple fact is that these structures are still fully in operation—mostly directing their pyromaniac fury at the Peace Agreement with the FARC, and on many occasions maintaining their capacity to veto what is permitted or prohibited in terms of agricultural policy, and also, in politics in its purest form (you need go no further than to look at the Ñeñe[3] episode). Their leaders show no sign of repentance. And they have their own project, which was partially concretized by Cabal[4] in her primary campaign. It consists of turning our public spaces into pasturelands; by that I mean responding to all social claims with blood and fire (pyromania) instead of using legal procedures. What will the country do about this? What does this say about the reasoning of those who were astounded by those “radicals” who thought distributive policies were necessary to give the campesinos some access to land, so that Colombians could be able to lift off our backs the heavy stone of backwardness and brutality in approaches such as those expressed by people like Lafaurie and Cabal (both accused by Osorio’s testimony)? As with Monterroso’s dinosaur,[5] the stone is still there.

Let’s not talk now about how the public policies toward the campesinos are lacking, so terrifyingly lacking; instead let’s consider the destruction by blood and fire of their houses, their lives, and their land.

This is a good example of what the peace proposes—or recalls—the fundamental questions which at some point the country will have to answer, unless we want to keep on being stuck in this nightmare forever.

[1] Colombian Cattle Ranchers Association.

[2] Between 1995 and 1997, Antioquia Governor Álvaro Uribe Vélez was a member of the Antioquia Livestock Fund Board of Directors, because the government was a shareholder. Editorial Kavilando, January 4, 2022.

[3] The Ñeñe episode refers to a situation involving corrupt campaign financing.

[4] Senator María Fernando Cabal of the Democratic Center Party.

[5] Augusto Monterroso’s story contains the dinosaur as allegory.

This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.