The Commission of Peace will discuss the possibility of reintegrating the Patriotic Union (UP), which suffered a state-sponsored genocide in the late 1980s and early 1990s, into Colombian politics by returning the defunct party’s legal status.
The UP has endured political “exile” since 2002 after the government took away their legal status to function as a political party.
“If there is a restitution of legal status, it is possible that other posts of public office that were lost in the genocide [could be reinstated],” Ivan Cepeda, whose father, Senator Manuel Cepeda, was murdered while in office in 1994, told Colombia Reports.
Nelda Forero, a UP spokesperson, sent a letter in mid-March to the negotiators at the peace talks between the government and the FARC in Havana, Cuba, requesting legal recognition for the party so that they might participate in the 2014 elections. Now the Commission of Peace, a body within Congress, is poised to meet separately with the High Commissioner of Peace, Sergio Jaramillo Caro, and the remaining members of the UP to discuss the party’s legal status.
“For us the legal status is only one element of an integral reparation for the genocide of our members committed by the state,” Omer Calderon, president of the UP, told Colombia Reports. “Today the Patriotic Union as a party is outlawed from the national stage of politics, refusing its members all fundamental rights to political participation.”
Though the UP was born from failed FARC peace negotiations in 1985 when a group of the guerrillas laid down arms and formed the UP political party, along with other left wing groups, Calderon claims that the party will not seek demobilized FARC members to populate their constituency. However, Calderon said, the UP will serve as a “political platform for the results achieved in Havana.”
Before they resume political participation, the UP has demanded that the government guarantee their safety from political genocide. The UP suffered at least 5,000 murders in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including congress members and the UP’s presidential candidate.
“The Colombian government has acknowledged that state agents, along with paramilitary groups, were responsible for the murders such as that of Congressman Manuel Cepeda,” said Cristian Salazar, a UN representative.
Calderon said that he has not received any threats to his life. Rather, the biggest challenge facing Colombia’s left-wing parties is internal.
“In general the situation has some practical difficulties. These difficulties result from the level of discord seen today. The parties of the left: Polo Democratico, Marcha Patriotica, and the Progresistas, are not in the condition to [succeed] … because of [internal] division. The left wing is making a fine effort at losing all representation in congress,” said Calderon.
- Interview with Ivan Cepeda
- Interview with Omer Calderon
- Comision de Paz revisara con Govierno y UP papel de victimas en dialogos de La Habana (Caracol Radio)
- Union Patriotica no descarta hacer politica con las Farc si se logra la paz (Caracol Radio)
- ‘La UP es una fuerza proscrita’ (El Espectador)
- La ONU advierte que hubo voluntad e exterminio contra la UP (Caracol Radio)