On the eve of the most important day in Colombian history, very few people outside the country are talking about the plebiscite that will happen on Sunday, October 2, 2016.
In terms of the consequences to the country and its citizens, to me it is as momentous as the Brexit referendum or the US presidential election. It seems like someone agrees with me on that one too.
One day a few months ago, my son called. There was much joy in his voice. He told me the government of Colombia and the FARC had finally reached an agreement! The long process of the peace talks was bearing fruits, finally. There was much hope.
On September 27, 2016 the agreement was officially signed with a pen made from a bullet. It’s the end of a 52 year old armed conflict… If Colombians manage to put aside their pain, their frustrations, their desire for revenge and manage to raise from so much suffering as a nation willing build the peaceful country we all dream of.
But things are never easy. And there are many who are not happy with peace. Those who profit from war. Those who benefit from discord and fear. The ruling class. The ones born with a silver spoon in their mouth, lead by former president Alvaro Uribe. It is not in his best interest that peace exists in Colombia. He, who should be facing an International Tribunal for crimes against humanity, dares to say that Colombia has not known war.
“Colombia no ha vivido la guerra”
These facts and figures tell a very different story, Mr. Uribe: Colombia conflict in numbers.
Worse, thousands of Colombians believe his lies. His rhetoric is convincing. He banks on pain and anger. He excites fear and desire of revenge. The wealthy are with him because it is in their best interest and the poor… they don’t know any better. I honestly don’t have an answer for that enigma. Can you explain for example why any black person would endorse Trump, or why a person of Indian descent would support Brexit?. No, you can’t. And yet there are some who do.
So today, while World Leaders, professors, Peace Talks specialists, the Pope and even musicians like Ringo Starr and Bono’s eyes are on Colombia, so many of its people are bent on revenge instead of forgiveness.
Why is it that the reasons offered by the powers that be in Colombia seem to be the same as those of the rest of the world, almost word by word? Do they get together every year for a secret conference to decide on their fear-mongering strategies and misinforming and misleading techniques? All I can say is that Alvaro Uribe is a Harvard graduate. That should give anyone pause.
On the eve of the most important day in Colombian history, I can’t sleep.
I had never seen such division in my lifetime.
There was one other time, of which I learned in history class. The dreadful times around the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán -the leader of the Populist Movement- which started a period so violent, with so much bloodshed, that it is known as “La Violencia”, The Violence.
My grandmother’s account of that time will chill your blood.
Gaitán was known as “El Caudillo del Pueblo”, the Leader of the People.
A popular story relates that during a debate with the Conservative candidate for president, Gaitán asked him how he made his living. “From the land”, the other candidate replied.
“Ah, and how did you get this land?” asked Gaitán.
“I inherited it from my father!”
“And where did he get it from?”
“He inherited it from his father!”
The question is repeated once or twice more, and then the Conservative candidate concedes, “We took it from the Natives”.
Gaitán’s reply was, “Well, we want to do the opposite: we want to give the land back to the Natives”. (Gaitán advocated land reform).
But in Colombia, anyone who opposes the powers that be, gets assassinated.
It happened with Gaitán 20 years before I was born.
It happened with Luis Carlos Galán Sarmiento, another great leader of the opposition and seen by many as the successor of Gaitán.
Once again the Colombian men turn passionate; but their passion is not that of the parties, the one that perverted their spirits and pushed thousands of countrymen to death towards phantoms of selfish ideals. Now our passion is Colombia and we believe in this ideal as the only one capable of uniting the whole country.
– Luis Carlos Galán – Revista Vértice, May 1964.
Galán was assassinated the year my son was born.
It happened with Jaime Garzón, journalist, comedian, lawyer, peace activist and political satirist.
It happened with the Unión Patriotica (UP), a Colombian leftist political party, which had all their leaders systematically assassinated. As of 2004, the records of the NGO Reiniciar show 1.163 homicide victims, 120 forced disappearances, 43 attack survivors, and more than 250 victims of threats from people belonging to the UP and the Communist Party still seeking some some of reparation from the State.
In summary, the ruling class’ MO is very simple: You either shut up or we kill you.
But the populace have bad memory. Or bad intellect, I’m sure in part due to the poor quality of life. Because you see, for the wealthy to be wealthy, many have to live in poverty. There isn’t enough money in this world for everybody to be a millionaire.
And as you can see, the wealthy defend their right to be wealthy by any necessary means.
However, my people seem to be quite oblivious of this.
I have dear friends who are voting no. My own sister is voting no. My. own. sister., for fuck’s sake.
She said to me she was considering moving to Canada because the President had sold the country to the FARC.
How can anyone think that way? I can’t fathom it and yet millions do.
So much brainwashing. I just want to sit down and cry
It seems to me that the misinformation tactics used by the powers that be have been successful.
On the eve of the most important day in Colombian history, I fear.
I’m afraid that even if the majority votes yes to approve the terms of the peace agreement, there will be uprisings everywhere instigated by those who profit from war.
And then it will be La Violencia all over again.