The Truth Commission and the Protests in Colombia
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
15 June 2021
Francisco de Roux, president of the Truth Commission
The Truth Commission (CEV) was set up as part of the agreement signed with the FARC in 2016. Its role, as its name indicates is to contribute to finding the truth about acts committed in the conflict. In theory it has no role regarding acts committed after 2016, yet still its president Francisco de Roux has made many comments about the strike, asking for blockades to be lifted, amongst other things.
When the strike started, De Roux said a bit about the injustices in Colombian society, as president of the CEV he could hardly deny it. If it weren't for the injustices in Colombian society, he wouldn't have the job he has. But it didn't take long to show that he doesn't want to know anything about the grassroots uprising and the violent response from the state. On May 6th he tweeted:
The social protest by the youths against the violence accumulated through decades of social exclusion, inequality and disrespect cannot be repressed through bullets nor can it turn into vandalism, hunger and destruction. Violence on all sides wants to take over the cause of the youths, don't let it happen!(1)He makes some acknowledgement of their demands to then compare the violence of the state, which he does not name explicitly, with the violence of the youths and ends by talking about violence on both sides. He sounds like Trump when he said there were good people on both sides in reference to the neo-Nazis and the anti-racist demonstrators, where the neo-Nazis murdered a youth. When he demands that the "violent ones" not be allowed to take over the cause of the youths, what he does is what the state has always done, stigmatising the youths and although he doesn't use the phrase " guerrilla infiltrators" he states in a more refined manner the old adage of the state that the hand of the guerrillas is behind every revolt.
De Roux continued in various tweets talking about non-violence and not harming companies and he talks of food blockades repeating yet another lie from his friends at the the TV stations of RCN and Caracol. There were no major supply problems in Colombia, whilst the major chains reported food shortages, supply centres such as Corabastos in Bogotá were full to the brim and local shops had everything. But he continued with his "pacifism".
Extremist positions have sought to protect or destroy through violence for 60 years. It is a time for magnanimity: to not permit any more deaths of anybody, redeem ourselves as humans, arrive unarmed, without hate and with humility to the serious conversation raised by the youths.(2)Reading his tweet, one would think that there were two sides clashing, when the only ones who are armed are from the state, who aim their weapons at the youths. The last time De Roux spoke of magnanimity was when he asked us to forgive the paramilitaries with magnanimity.(3) Some will say I am being unfair to De Roux, but as a good Jesuit priest, I think he would accept the popular biblical saying, "by their acts you shall know them" ( in reality it says fruits and not acts). His next act was something unworthy and shows that he does not know what the truth is and how to arrive at it or he knows, but prefers to ignore it.
It was reported that a branch of the supermarket chain Éxito in the city of Cali had been used as a torture centre during the strike. A verification commission arrived in the area and the House Representative and member of the Peace Commission of the House and Senate, John Jairo Hoyos said of the events reported by inhabitants of the neighbourhood, in an interview with Canal 2:
This commission was made up by human rights groups, the Mayor's office, and they verified the presence of blood on the walls and floor. We have been informed that the scenes were altered and the Peace Commission has made a formal request to the Chief Prosecutor's Office and the regional director of prosecutors that they immediately send a commission. Likewise, we have informed the Human Rights Coordination, in order for the Procurator General, the Public Defenders' Office guarantee due process and that they verify what has happened and why the institutions were prevented from entering immediately following the reports. It is not acceptable that 24 hours have elapsed without the institutions being present inside Éxito in order to ensure that human rights were not violated in this space.(4)Despite the statements made by this politician who visited the place, the priest De Roux, who did not visit it, knows better and has a direct line to god or the devil (it is not clear which) and immediately came out to exonerate the supermarket chain Éxito.
It is not true the Éxito branch in Calipso was turned into a torture centre or a base, by the company, to attack the mobilisations. To say so is a lie and is a form of stigmatisation to create chaos on the net. Lies harm the unity to protect the life and rights of all.(5)It was worth pointing out that at the time Éxito had made no statements. They took a further two days to deny it and never handed over the videos from the site that would clear everything up. One, would have hoped that De Roux as president of a truth commission would ask for proof, testimony, including that of Éxito, but no. Maybe some director of some large company or business association rang him, as I said one doesn't know whether his direct line is with god or the devil, to tell him that he has to exonerate Éxito two days before the company tweeted a denial.
De Roux is one of those "pacifists" who distinguishes between violence depending on its source and he does so by speaking in general rather than specific terms. In Cali, the rich came out, guns in hand and shot the demonstrators under the complacent gaze of the police. But he doesn't say, Rich people in Ciudad Jardín, don't kill anyone! but rather:
Cali. Please don't kill anyone else. Don't shoot. The youths, don't throw your lives away. Stop the armed violence that destroys everything it touches. It is time for all of us in the city to listen to each other. The time for dialogue.(6)He doesn't mention them by name and he further states that the youths throw their lives away when it is the case that they go out to protest and the police and the rich i.e. paramilitaries as well armed as they are dressed kill them. And he calls for dialogue with such scum. It clear that as far as he is concerned the youth bear the greater part of the blame, if not all of it.
The youths must stop the blockades and embrace all of the city and all of Colombia. The prolonged blockade has become an act of aggression and harm to many; and the city and the country need an act of love from the youths so as everyone can join their legitimate cause.(7)There is not a single tweet demanding that the police not kill, that Duque withdraw all of the reforms, nor that those responsible be investigated and tried, both police officers and prosecutors. He continues to blame the youths, repeating the lies of the press. Humanitarian corridors were opened up for food and medicine, amongst other things but he continues to talk of total blockades where there are none.
In the National Strike in order for it to be UNDERSTOOD that intolerable situations can no longer by tolerated, the youths placed a blockade and made their protest UNDERSTOOD. But the TOTAL AND PROLONGED BLOCKADE has become intolerable as it violates the rights and the dignity of the many.(8) (Capitals in original)Once again, what is intolerable is the blockade and not the murder by his class brothers,(9) nor what motivated the strike in the first place. The victim is treated as being responsible for their own misfortune and the ones who violate the rights and dignity are the angry youths who rose up against the financial, tax, police and media violence that oppresses them everyday and not just when De Roux realises it. De Roux is not even capable of making a statement on the paramilitary patrols in the neighbourhood of Siloé in Cali. On June 12th, Noticias Uno reported on it with a video of them(10) but up to now the supervisor of the truth has kept quiet. Piedad Córdoba also reported it on her twitter account, but now that we have to put a name to murderers, De Roux remains silent, just as he also remained silent about the murder of Junior Jein, the singer who along with other artists recorded the song ¿Quién los mató? (Who Killed Them?) about the massacre of five youths on a sugar cane farm near Cali. What he wants is for the poor to beg the elites, of which he is a part of, and pray to his god. As Violeta Parra's song Porque los pobres no tienen (Because the poor do not have)
Because the poor do not have
Where to turn to
They look to the heavens
In the infinite hope
Of finding what their brother
Took from them in this world.
To continue with the lie
They are called by their confessor
Who tells them God does not want
Demands or unions
That offend his heart.
De Roux is not capable of seeing the reality of the violence that takes place before his eyes, so the grotesque circus where he allowed Juan Manuel Santos to lie about his role in the false positives is hardly surprising. Neither is it surprising that he says Uribe expressed his pain about the false positives.(11) If he can't see what is happening in the Strike, how can he see what happened years ago? We know that the truth from the CEV will be at best a half truth. Meanwhile the CEV continues to distort the reality of the strike.
(3) De Roux, F. cited in Ó Loingsigh (2007) Catatumbo un reto por la verdad (2ªEd). CISCA. Bogotá p.166-167
(5) De Roux, F. cited in Ó Loingsigh (2007) Catatumbo un reto por la verdad (2ªEd). CISCA. Bogotá p.166-167
(9) De Roux come from a wealthy and influential family from Valle del Cauca and his uncle Ignacio Rengifo Borrero gave the order for the Banana Workers massacre.