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Colombia: Piedad Córdoba and Unburied Corpses

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

05 November 2021

Photo: G.O.L : Piedad Córdoba

Piedad Córdoba formalised her resignation from the Liberal Party in an open letter to the president of the said group, César Gaviria, stating she no longer wanted to be a militant in an unburied corpse.  The expression is rather unfortunate as the Liberal Party knows a lot about buried and unburied corpses.(1)  Something which doesn’t seem to concern her as much.

She began her career in the Liberal Party as a councillor, elected in 1988.  Following those same elections, the Liberal Party ordered the murder of 43 people in Segovia in revenge for the electoral defeat suffered at the hands of the Patriotic Union.  Those corpses were never a resigning matter, not even when the head of the party in that region, César Pérez was sentenced to 25 years for his role as the intellectual author of the massacre.

In her letter, she criticises the former president of the country, and the current head of the Liberal Party ,César Gaviria.  She accuses him of promoting neoliberalism.  Well, it is true, but he didn’t do it on his own, but rather with the support of the entire Liberal Party.  The economic aperture of the 1990s was a policy of the State and the party as such.

The infamous reform of the health sector, known as Law 100 of 1993 was a proposal from her party.  Uribe moved the bill in Congress, but he was not the architect of that law, but rather one of a number of people in the party behind it.  That law has left tens of thousands of buried and unburied dead over the years.  At no point did Piedad Córdoba think of resigning over the law.

Gaviria and his Minister for Defence, Rafael Pardo gave us the decree that set up the rural security cooperatives, Convivir, a policy implemented by president Samper.  Not one of the massacres or murders carried out by the Convivir led to her resignation.  Not even the Process 8000 was a resigning matter.  There is no doubt that the Cali Cartel financed Samper’s electoral campaign.  The only doubt, at least legally, is whether Samper knew or not.  Humberto de la Calle resigned from the Vicepresidency due to his disagreement over the Process 8000.  However, neither he nor Piedad Córdoba resigned from the Liberal Party.  How many unburied bodies did drug trafficking leave in that period?

Photo G.O.L : Former president Samper reinventing himself in support of a Humanitarian Accord.

Then Piedad Córdoba rose up as an opponent of various of Uribe’s policies and faced him and his government on the issue of a Humanitarian Accord for the prisoners held by the FARC.  She didn’t always manage the issue well, but she was sincere, nobody can question her on that front.  However, over the years fighting with Uribe, her party made various agreements with Uribe and she never broke with them ever.

Now the Liberal Party is not disserving of her support, or rather she clearly sees that her future is outside of it.  She says as much in her letter that “It is not I who withdraws from Colombian liberalism.  You withdrew the Liberal Party from the political life of Colombia.  I can’t be a militant of an unburied corpse”(2), i.e., she is a pure liberal and Gaviria and his party no longer are.  In which policies and actions can that pure party from the past be seen?  In which massacre?  In which impact of the economic aperture?

She vindicates 150 years of that party’s history, and presumably she also vindicates its role in the years known as The Violence and the National Front, as according to her the rot set in just with Gaviria.  She didn’t resign back then but now she wants to set herself apart, which she didn’t do in the past.  According to her, “It was the liberal people that came out to protest from April onwards who do not see in you, nor in your parliamentary bench spokespeople for their interests.”(3)  Well it is true that the youths that placed their skin, bones and eyes against the armour of the state and its paramilitary groups do not see the Liberal Party as their representatives, but she makes the same mistake as Petro thinking that those youths are her voters next year.  Those who came out to protest did not do so in the name of the supposed liberal ideals that she professes.

In an attempt to place some distance between herself and Gaviria and in passing her own past, she goes full throttle after him.

You are not only an unsustainable burden for the Liberal Party, but also history will continue to judge you as the pioneer of the neoliberal model [in Colombia] which is now rejected in the streets.  Job insecurity, unemployment, privatisations and misery.  Health and education as merchandise, whilst the economy has yet to find its path after three decades of economic aperture, a loss of food sovereignty, of the basic industrial fabric, of the development bank, whilst public debt rises along with an exorbitant military expenditure that you began when you declared a comprehensive war and promised that through your Minister for Defence, Rafael Pardo, you would finish off the guerrillas in 18 months.(4)
Yes, he did all that and bears responsibility for everything she says.  But why did she not resign earlier?  It reminds me of the old joke about President Turbay, and his fame for being stupid, scolding the Spanish Ambassador about the Conquest and all that Spain did in Colombia.  The Ambassador interrupts him and says “but that was 500 years ago” and Turbay responds, “yeah, but I only found out yesterday”.  So, from everything that Piedad Córdoba says a question arises, when did she find out? Yesterday?

Please, don’t take us for idiots, the non-liberal people have been protesting these measures for over three decades, falling under the bullets and boots of the State’s and the Liberal Party’s dogs.  They have pointed out over and again the impacts of those policies and Córdoba continued in that party stained by rivers of blood.  But as Brecht says, when the crimes pile up the cries fall like rain in the summer and the sky does not listen to the cries of those drowning.  So, why now?  It is easy, the politician in her knows that her future is outside the party and she says so explicitly in her letter.  She explains that she has had no position within the party since 2004, nor any elected position since 2010 and so the Parliamentary Blocs law does not apply to her and she can go forward as a candidate for Gustavo Petro’s Historic Pact.

So, it is clear that I do not fall under any of the possible causes for double militancy in Article 2 of Law 1475 of 2011, but as is public knowledge I desire at this point of historical inflexion to continue my political career with my liberal ideals with the Historic Pact.(5)
Let’s be clear, the Liberal Party represents today what it has always represented: the interests of a sector of the oligarchy.  There is no left-wing liberal party, that defends the people.  Piedad Córdoba is a populist cut from the same cloth as Horacio Serpa, and now she realises which way the wind is blowing and decides to jump from the liberal boat to Petro’s boat.  If she is worried about unburied corpses, well she should denounce her party, whose flag is an L on a red background, but the not the red of Socialism but rather of the blood bath it imposed, alternating with the Conservative Party.  What smells rotten are not just the corpses swimming in the rivers or the ones in an unmarked grave but rather the attempts of people like Córdoba and other right-wing Colombian figures such as Benedetti, Saade, Barreras and others to reinvent themselves and to place a fictitious distance between their current positions and the ones they held yesterday.


(1) Semana (03/11/2021)  “No puedo militar en un cadáver”: la dura carta de renuncia de Piedad Córdoba al Partido Liberal

(2) Ibíd.,

(3) Ibíd.,

(4) Ibíd.,

(5) Ibíd.,

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