Monday, November 17, 2014

Not all Victims are Equal

'General kidnapped in El Chocó' reports El Tiempo.
About two weeks ago, FARC guerrillas hung banners commemorating the death three years ago of a murderous guerrilla leader on territory belonging to the NASA indigenous people. NASA indigenous guards pulled the banners down. Furious at being defied, the guerrillas murdered two of the NASA people.

In response, the NASA captured eight guerrillas, two of whom were teenagers. After a trial in front of thousands of NASA people, two of the guerrillas were sentenced to 60 and 40-year prison terms and the teenage boys to being whipped.

Colombian leaders denounced the FARC for the killings and for employing child soldiers, but continued negotiating peace with them in Havana, Cuba.

Two days ago, a Colombian general disappeared in Chocó Department, allegedly kidnapped by the
FARC. In response, the government suspended the peace negotiations.
Caracol TV reports the suspension of the peace talks in Havana.

This is far from the first time that some victims have turned out to be more important than others.

In 1928, Colombian soldiers, defending the interests of the United Fruit Company, massacred hundreds or thousands of striking workers in the town of Cienaga near Santa Marta. Soon afterwards, the general in charge, Carlos Cortés Vargas, was promoted to chief of police of Bogotá.

But the next year during students protests Bogotá police shot and killed a young man. who turned out to be the son of a friend of the president. Murdering hundreds of plantation laborers was apparently acceptable, but killing a member of the elite crossed the line. Both Gen. Cortés and Minister of Defense Ignacio Rengifo were fired.

The NASA present Captured FARC guerrillas to the public.
And don't get me started on the Caso Colmenares, the sad story of a student from an elite private university who either died or was murdered in a north Bogotá ravine while partying with friends. The media never stop telling us about the Colmenares trial, while countless humble Bogotanos die tragically and unnoticed.

The drama of the many victims of Colombia's long civil war is in the news these days because of the debate about how - and whether - to compensate them. A recent study by Harvard University found that, including displaced people, some 6.9 million Colombians qualify as victims. That's 14% of Colombia's population, whereas most other nations have compensated about 1%. The FARC, for their part, deny that they have victimized civilians at all - something nobody believes.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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