By José Antequera, COLOMBIA+20, EL ESPECTADOR,

August 25, 2022


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

It’s hard to extract a general story in the Report by the Colombia Truth Commission, as Sábato[1] tried to do with the prologue of Nunca Más in Argentina and his theory about the evil spirits; or as the Truth Commission of Perú tried to do with the Hatun Villakuy[2] (the whole story). Although here there is a volume specifically titled “Story of the history of the armed conflict”.

The Report of the Truth Commission is one of the longest in the world, with 23 volumes. The historical narrative of such a long period is organized in sub-periods that can be summarized within themselves, and that are stitched together with the others, to the extent that they constitute the war itself and thus, a long and tragic process of victimization.

Nevertheless, these sub-periods connect among themselves beginning with some absurd circumstances, such as the outbreak of drug trafficking; or the Strike of 77 when the guerrillas were hoping for a revolution; or the Constitution of 1991, where we celebrated it as if it were a democratic opening, while the political genocide against the movement that raised the flag of the democratic opening was being consolidated. What’s in the Report about the general narrative is of great value, undoubtedly. These are dynamic truths about a long history in which the only unwavering line, I insist, is the condition of “war” that has to be explained. As Commissioner Patricia Tobón said when she presented the chapter on ethnicity, “There are different emphases, on the political system, the model of development, what the actors did, and many other variables. What happened before the war, around the war, after the war—all that is context.”

Precisely because the Report is this way, I believe that it’s fundamental to use every effort to study it, use it, and criticize it. Our Truth Commission—whose finished work is a point of departure; it doesn’t close the conflict, because democracy is conflict—it has an important objective ahead, to my way of thinking. Opening the conversation about the country’s historical experience, and the experience of multiple sectors; besides serving transitional justice and the legitimacy of the transition itself, it’s the gathering and broadening of the citizenship to which we have the right through our remembrance.

Beyond the opportunistic election year slogans concerning the Commission, it’s necessary that we undertake this conversation on the basis of the many truths that have to be placed on the table for the future that we don’t yet see; the future of change, the true democracy, the decent health care, the people’s security, the cultures, the transformation of energy, etc. Because it’s clear that the discussion of the past cannot be approached, for good or bad, in black and white. It’s our current challenges about the conflict that we have to discuss, starting with the anticommunist attacks, the land theft, neoliberal capitalism, the structural racism, or the useless sacrifice justified as revolutionary commitment. To do that, we have to keep talking from a broad and diverse context, accepting what can’t be denied, making use of self-criticism, mapping out the things that are fundamental.

And no, I’m not calling for that relativism that says there are truths because “everybody has their own truth”. The findings, which are many and which can be read in every chapter, besides being titled “Findings”, imply powerful affirmations that presume inescapable reforms for the true democratization of this country. Nevertheless, what follows is not transmission of the Report as a pamphlet, but rather, I insist, we must talk about it, because the remembrance is not the government’s responsibility to officialize a static and untouchable narrative, but rather, it’s our right to find out, to admit, to face, and to confront our deconsecrated past.

[1] Ernesto Sábato chaired Argentina’s National Commission on the Disappeared Persons. Its report was titled, Nunca Más (Never Again).

[2] “The Internal Armed Conflict in Peru” 2004.

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