31 October 2017
by Carolina Gouveia
Doña Fany García, co-founder of Cahucopana,
while planting in memory of the victims killed from her region. “Forgive is not
to forget, it is to not allow history to repeat itself.” Photo: Caldwell
September 17 was a long
day. We woke up early and traveled to Remedios, Antioquia where we met a
caravan of about 30 people who were also preparing for the long journey of
another 6 hours until the village of Lejanías. Joy and energy were palpable
during this long ride. People were loud, singing and even dancing. The reason
for the party may seem odd at first: Cahucopana (Corporation for Humanitarian
Action, Peace and Coexistence of North-Eastern Antioquia) was recognized as a
subject of collective reparation by the Unit for Attention and Reparation of
Victims of the conflict in Colombia. They were celebrating that the state
recognizes them as victims. It seems absurd but it makes sense.
The conflict in Colombia lasted more than 50 years.
Many people lost their lives. Many lost sons and daughters, brothers and
sisters. Many of them do not know what happened to their family members.
According to the Victims Unit, Colombia has 8,532,636 direct and indirect
victims of the armed conflict.
In 2016, the peace agreement between the FARC,
formerly known as Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and the state created
the Integral System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition. This
system exists in order to guarantee that what happened during the conflict will
never happen again. One of its mechanisms is the recognition of individual and
collective victims, such as the organization Cahucopana. Upon being recognized
as victims, the process of reparation begins. Depending on the context, it may
include restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, which means
the verification of the facts and full and public disclosure of the truth, and
guarantees of non-repetition.
Don Gerardo Acero, Doña Fanny García, Oscar
Macias and Braulio García (Don Rayito), founders of Cahucopana are honoured by
the current generation of the organization’s human rights defenders. Photo:
On September 18th and 19th, delegates from
different communities in the North-Eastern of Antioquia gathered for the
Recognition of Victims Celebration. The members of Cahucopana reunited in the
community of Lejanías, where 14 years ago the organization was founded, due to
an imminent threat to be displaced by the National Army. This military action
resulted in 18 extrajudicial killings, the so-called “false positives”
(recognized as a crime against humanity), as well as bombing and forced
displacement. These campesinxs, who fought in order to maintain their land,
were falsely accused of being guerrillas, and many were killed for that reason.
On September 18th, the state, through the Victims Unit, acknowledged its
responsibility for the violence that Cahucopana and its members had suffered.
Recognizing that Cahucopana is a victim means that
there were violations of the right of free movement of its members. Families
had to leave their homes to ensure their dignity of life. Their rights to
security and the right to organize were violated. All these rights are insured
by the Colombian constitution.
When we hear from the leaders about the suffering
and struggle that campesinxs in this region have gone through, it makes sense
to celebrate. The most important points for Cahucopana’s members are the
satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition. The state recognizes their
mistakes. It recognizes the stigma that campesinxs have suffered when they were
accused of being guerrillas and recognizes their story. Not the version of the
story that the state created, but the story that was lived by the campesinxs.
The event was framed by moments of emotion. It began with a symbolic act of
planting seeds in honor of the victims who lost their lives, followed by the
founding leaders receiving self portraits with flowers and words of gratitude.
The joy of knowing that the path of reconciliation is being built was
contagious. They do not celebrate their victimization. They celebrate
resistance. They celebrate forgiveness.