From El Espectador, translated by FOR Peace Presence. Original: http://bit.ly/1gmXaz1
President Juan Manuel Santos apologized to the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, which opted for peaceful resistance in the midsts of armed conflict, and were in the past accused erroneously by the authorities of supporting the FARC. Santos announced his apologies, referring to the the actions of his Government on this subject, in the name of the State and in compliance with a provision of the Constitutional Court, during a commemoration for the International Day of Human Rights. Santos also recalled the pacifism of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela.
“Some years ago, from the Presidency of the nation, unjust accusations were made against a community – the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado. With respect to this, the Constitutional Court ordered the State, through its head the President, to retract”, said Santos.
This community, nestled in the banana zone of Uraba, in the department of Antioquia, was established in 1997, during a time of intense violence between paramilitary groups of the right and guerrillas of the left for control of the region. Since 2005, the year of the largest massacre in the community, more than 190 members of the community have been assassinated, mostly by paramilitaries, in several cases with the help of the Army, according to court officials.
The military claimed that the community had links with the FARC guerrilla, an accusation that was also made by ex-President Uribe (2002-2010)
“I recognize the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado as a courageous vindication of the rights of Colombians that, despite having experienced the conflict first hand, has persisted in its efforts to achieve peace for the country”, said Santos.
In addition, Santos confessed that he only has “deep admiration and respect for the Peace Community” and regretted “all those accusations that in the past have been made against its good name”.
“We retract as the State, and as the State we express the unwavering commitment to the respect and protection of human rights, as well as our compliance to the courts that oversee those rights”, he added.
The head of state reiterated his rejection of attitudes that stigmatize “those who seek peace and reject violence”, and commented that “all who defend peace and human rights should be exalted and protected”.
“For this we ask forgiveness. I ask forgiveness. And I do so with the knowledge that forgiveness is a condition of peace, and that peace is the only guarantor that there will be no more victims”, added the President, that this Tuesday defended his social policies and the negotiations with the FARC that his government has held in Havana, Cuba.
Santos also evoked again the late leader of South Africa Nelson Mandela, whose memorial service was held this Tuesday in Johannesburg with the participation of numerous world leaders, with Vice-President Angelino Garzon representing Colombia.
“Again we remember Mandela when he said “the brave don’t fear to forgive for the good of peace”, concluded the Colombian head of state.