Colombia: the Valley of the Shadow of Death

by Stewart Vriesinga

Even when you don’t actually see them, the paramilitaries in Colombia cast a long shadow.  While traveling in Northeast Antioquia, my teammate Gladys Gómez and I didn’t actually see any paramilitaries.  At least we don’t think we did.  We aren’t sure about the two guys on the motorbike.

At the request of CAHUCOPANA, a grassroots human rights organization and partner of CPT, we had traveled with some campesinos from their rural communities into the city of Remedios to file a complaint with government author-ities about numerous human rights abuses and threats they had received.  

A few days later we accompanied them back home, the riskiest part of their journey.  About 15 of us were traveling in a small jeep when the motorbike raced ahead of us.  When we rounded the next curve, the two men were there waiting.  They studied the passengers in our vehicle intently.  I didn’t see a gun, but others in the jeep say they did.  All of us felt ill at ease; one woman traveling with a young child was visibly shaken.

In the end, the punishing, jouncing, bouncing, four-hour trip in the crowded, overloaded jeep over nearly impassible mountain roads went smoothly.  This time the long shadow cast by the paramilitaries caused only terror, not death.

Vriesinga is from Ontario, Canada and serves full time with the team in Colombia.