Colombia’s ex-armed group leaders apologise for warfare atrocities

Bogota, Colombia – Two of Colombia’s most outstanding ex-rebel and paramilitary group leaders apologised to victims on Wednesday as a part of a fee designed to unravel the sophisticated truths behind the nation’s decades-long civil warfare.

While the testimonies had been thought-about an important step as Colombia struggles to grapple with previous bloodshed, additionally they left lots of the greater than 9 million victims of the battle with a bitter style of their mouths.

“This is a process of constantly grappling with our history,” mentioned Sergio Guzman, director of Bogota-based Colombia Risk Analysis. “And there’s no good guy or bad guy in Colombian history. There is what there is.”

Rodrigo Londono, identified extra generally by his nom de guerre Timochenko, led the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist insurgent group that waged warfare with the Colombian authorities for greater than 50 years.

Salvatore Mancuso, who additionally testified on Wednesday, was a high commander of the right-wing United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), a gaggle shaped to struggle leftist insurgent teams such because the FARC.

Despite performing as foes in Colombia’s battle, each teams dedicated a few of the most atrocious acts of warfare, together with kidnappings, sexual violence, baby recruitment and the massacres of civilians.

The two leaders expressed regret to victims on Wednesday whereas testifying earlier than Colombia’s Truth Commission. Mancuso spoke from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility within the United States, the place he’s combating deportation to Colombia.

“I’ve reflected on all of the things I’ve done or provoked, all the things I’ve participated in, on the many people who have died, all the families who lost everything because of us,” Mancuso, donning an orange jail uniform, mentioned over a livestream to 20 battle victims. “I want to be recognised in front of you for all my responsibility in this conflict.”

2016 peace deal

The Truth Commission was born from a 2016 peace pact struck between the Colombian authorities and the FARC. It was created to research warfare crimes dedicated in the course of the armed battle as a part of an effort to assist victims heal.

On Wednesday, the previous armed group leaders detailed how they turned concerned within the battle and answered questions from victims about how they operated and what motivated their teams’ assaults on civilians.

“Unfortunately, the guerrillas’ attacks were incomprehensible to our goal, the thing we fought and gave our lives for. In the end we were doing the opposite of what we wanted: affecting the civil population,” Londono mentioned.

Former FARC insurgent chief Rodrigo Londono expressed regret to victims throughout Truth Commission testimony on Wednesday [File: Luisa Gonzalez/Reuters]

Some of an important data got here from Mancuso, mentioned Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli, Andes director of the Washington Office on Latin America, a US-based non-profit.

Sanchez mentioned the ex-AUC chief testified that a lot of the group’s violence was backed by the Colombian authorities and personal pursuits resembling corporations and wealthy landowners.

But Sanchez-Garzoli described Wednesday’s testimonies as “highly problematic”, as Mancuso mentioned that AUC fighters acted out of “self-defence” and that they killed political candidates to consolidate energy to supply higher well being companies and financial stability to civilians. Londono additionally revealed little new details about the FARC’s actions in the course of the battle, Sanchez-Garzoli added.

“This just scratched the surface for me,” she instructed Al Jazeera. “Really, this should be the first of many conversations.”

‘Doing whatever benefits them’

The testimonies left a bitter style within the mouths of many victims, together with Yirley Velazco, a survivor of an notorious bloodbath dedicated by Manusco’s paramilitary group that was one of the crucial bloody acts of Colombia’s battle.

“They’re not actually asking for forgiveness, they’re not doing it because they truly feel the need to ask for it,” Velazco instructed Al Jazeera after the listening to.

“More than anything they’re doing it … so they can justify everything that happened. They’re asking for forgiveness out of politics, doing whatever benefits them.”

Earlier dialogues solid by the Truth Commission have been marked by related criticism.

The fee drew worldwide consideration in late June when Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate who was kidnapped and held hostage by the FARC within the jungle for greater than six years, took the stage.

The Franco-Colombian confronted her captors for the primary time and mentioned she discovered FARC apologies to their victims disingenuous. “I wanted to hear you speak from your heart, not from politics,” Betancourt mentioned at the moment. “This is a meeting of hearts, not a political meeting.”

But Guzman mentioned the testimonies symbolize an important step ahead for a rustic that has been tormented by cycles of violence for many of its historical past. The dialog, he mentioned, is an try to point out the various totally different views of Colombia’s battle – one thing larger than the testimony of Mancuso or Londono alone.

Guzman mentioned that it’s “hard to swallow” in a spot the place most individuals have been affected by violence. “I think the principal issue here is: whose truth is it?” he mentioned. “Nobody seems to be very willing to acknowledge that truth is complex and not a very straightforward issue.”


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