Colombia: Uribe and the Truth Commission
Liars All Over the Place
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
17 August 2021
Former President of Colombia Álvaro Uribe meets members of the Truth Commission.
Uribe appeared before the Truth Commission (CEV) or rather the CEV appeared before him on his estate, as peons paying homage to an angry boss. Uribe did what he does best, he lied with a certain skill. It was foreseeable, but the real problem is not whether or not he told the truth, as Santos didn’t tell the truth either, but the type of truth they want to achieve.
The media, the president of the CEV himself, Francisco de Roux and others played up the importance of Uribe giving his version of the truth. Some even want to rescue a few fallen crumbs from Uribe’s table. The El Espectador stated:
After years of opposition and a still ambivalent discourse, one of the main political leaders decided to contribute to the process of truth building. He will say otherwise, that he doesn’t accept the legitimacy of the Commission and his opponents came out to describe it as a spectacle, but the image of the former president talking to the director of the Commission is an important symbolic act.(1)He decided to contribute to the truth with lies, but for the El Espectador it is an important symbolic act. That is what the CEV is, a symbolic act, it will never tell the truth. How do we know? De Roux himself has already made declarations exonerating the military and business people. It is the same person who in the midst of the recent protests came out to defend the supermarket chain Éxito from accusations of having lent one of its branches as an unlawful detention and torture centre, even before the company itself had made a statement. There has not been a single official truth commission that has ever told the truth about the conflict in their respective countries. Not in South Africa or in Guatemala where the Catholic Church produced its own report and the military murdered its architect, Monsignor Gerardi.(2)
So, it is hardly surprising that Uribe lies. He said that the soldiers who murdered at least 6,402 youths in the so-called false positives deceived him. On that, he is not that different from Santos who said he wasn’t up to speed on the false positives until very late in the day. Uribe says he was duped. Of course, reactions have not been the same. Uribe received harsher criticism because some believe he is the bad assassin and Santos is the good assassin, as if good assassins existed.
De Roux accepted responsibility for the meeting with Uribe, the shoddy treatment received but he stressed that “it was necessary to sit down with the former president and listen to him. ‘Some said we should have withdrawn. But I thought we shouldn’t do that. The Commission listened to everyone and (the Uribistas) can’t say that we did not listen to them respectfully’.”(3) And that is what it is about. The CEV is just a talking shop. No one is going to go to jail for what is said in the CEV, in fact the statements and evidence provided cannot be used in a court of law.
In the midst of his delirious statements Uribe put forward the idea of a general amnesty i.e. wiping the slate clean and starting again. De Roux is not opposed to the idea. He said that “I think the country should open up to a broad peace. I like the idea, but once things are well defined so as there is not a greater degree of impunity.”(4)
Gustavo Petro also lent his support to the idea. In his twitter account he said
I agree with a general amnesty in Colombia. Social and historical forgiveness is an almost unrepeatable but fundamental moment for peace in society. But before there is an amnesty they have to return all the stolen assets and there be complete truth.(5)For his part, Senator Cepeda said
If Uribe wants a general amnesty the conditions are clear: crimes against humanity cannot be amnestied and the truth is an absolute requirement. That precise truth that he has tried to deny and refuses to acknowledge.(6)Cepeda is a little more cautious than Petro, but they both make major mistakes. Firstly, the great man of peace, Santos, also known as the Minister of Defence who murdered 6.402 youths passed Law 1148 of 2011 that was supposedly going to return stolen land to the peasants. We now know that it didn’t happen and those that could recover their land did so after a long tortuous road and fight against the institutions of the man of peace. Many times, the courts did not favour the peasants, in other cases they accepted the legitimacy of the requests but they left them in practice without effect and Santos himself tried by legal means to deny or restrict the recovery of stolen lands.
We also have to ask ourselves, what lands are we talking about? The drug barons’ lands? Well Uribe will sacrifice more than one friend or acquaintance if need be. But, are we going to review the lands of the Santodomingo or the now deceased Ardila Lulle? If we are talking about their lands the peasants will have to struggle for many years to recover their plots, just like the peasants in Bella Vista who struggled against Abramovitch.
And what about the lands of the peasants displaced by the hydroelectric dams of Ituango, Urrá or Sogomoso? No one doubts there are mass graves in those areas. Does Petro propose to recover those lands? Or like Santos will he appeal to the national interest in such projects?
On Cepeda’s statements, well it is the case that crimes against humanity cannot be subject to an amnesty. But when he says that “truth is an absolute requirement” we have to remind him that both he and other defenders of the peace process with the FARC told us that that the transitional justice system i.e. the JEP and the CEV would bring us peace and truth. Now he doesn’t think so. With a general amnesty we will have the same lies as now, with everyone excluding people like Santos, business leaders, and various politicians beforehand.
There you have your peace process, your truth process, your transitional justice. It is what it is, although it is not what you promised and it never was going to be what you promised. Both Uribe as much as Santos are the incarnations of variations on the lies and the injustice that this process has and will continue to be.
(1) Editorial (16/08/2021) La importancia de Álvaro Uribe ante la Comisión de la Verdad https://www.elespectador.com/opinion/editorial/la-importancia-de-alvaro-uribe-ante-la-comision-de-la-verdad/
(2) The REMHI report and other information can be consulted here http://www.remhi.org.gt/portal/ and on Gerardi’s murder https://www.prensalibre.com/guatemala/justicia/el-perdon-sana-la-memoria-no-la-desaparece-se-cumplen-21-anos-de-la-muerte-de-juan-gerardi/
(3) El Espectador (17/08/2021) Asumo la responsabilidad de lo que pasó”: padre De Roux sobre encuentro con Uribe https://www.elespectador.com/politica/asumo-la-responsabilidad-de-lo-que-paso-padre-de-roux-sobre-encuentro-con-uribe/