by Chris Knestrick
Matthew’s Gospel recounts the story of how Herod the Great, fearing that his throne could be in jeopardy, ordered the slaughter of the holy innocents – all boys two years old and under in and around Bethlehem.
Two thousand years later, governments continue resorting to the most barbaric acts of violence to remain in power. The history of the Patriotic Union (UP) in Colombia reminds us that the massacre of innocents is an ongoing story.
On 11 November 1988, paramilitary forces backed by the Colombian army showed up in Segovia, Antioquia on a mission to rid the city of all UP supporters. They killed 43 people and wounded 40 more.
Since that day, Segovia has wept for her children in silence.
However, 22 years later on 11 November 2010, a voice was heard in Segovia – survivors refusing to be consoled. Descendents and survivors, joined by human rights workers and international witnesses, overcame more than two decades of fear to gather in the first public commemoration of the massacre; to remember the victims and to call for justice and reparations.
The UP was a legitimate political party formed in 1985 when the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) reached an agreement with then President, Belisario Betancur. The party was presented as an exit opportunity for FARC members who believed the electoral process offered a solution to Colombia’s protracted civil war.
The UP quickly gained popularity throughout Colombia and won hundreds of races at all levels of government in their first elections. The established powers felt the threat and followed Herod’s footsteps.
Since 1985 the UP has suffered 30 massacres and 6,000 assassinations. Presently, almost all of their members have been murdered by Colombian state security forces and paramilitary groups with the help of the USA – a history referred to as “genocide” under the UN’s definition: “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”