Colombia is becoming increasingly interesting for foreigners. A number
of these foreigners unfortunately refuse to accept the complexity of
the country and its conflict before involving themselves in the
discussion on internal issues and therefore are more part of
Colombia’s problem than its solution. These ‘gringos’ are forgetting the values we were taught at home.
Colombia’s conflict has last for nearly 45 years and over the years has involved dozens of parties, recently resulting in three mayor partakers in the conflict; The State, paramilitary umbrella organization AUC and the FARC. After the demobilization of the AUC the conflict seems a lot easier. Now there’s just the state and the FARC, so taking sides has become easy.
Colombian government = evil
There’s people who say the State is the bad guy. It has numerous (proven and alleged) ties to the AUC, it is committing numerous human rights violations including the murder on innocent civilians, it has not done anything to reduce the country’s poverty and has been denying to declare the situation of the millions of displaced a humanitarian disaster.
A small portion of these people find the FARC is fighting a legit battle against the oppression of the Colombian people, social injustice.
FARC = evil
Other people say the FARC is the bad guy. It is constantly violating the human rights of the Colombian people through kidnapping, extortion, murder and forcing children to work or even fight in their so called people’s army and think anti-personnel mines are a legitimate war tactic.
Some of these people see the current administration of Álvaro Uribe as absolutely good for Colombia, expect a social disaster if he ever resigns and consider the displaced and victims of human rights violations ‘collateral damage’.
Nobody = evil
If you acknowledge the things mentioned above as bad in deed are bad, you may agree that choosing sides in Colombia is not the most sensible thing to do. You may want to think again before portraying the conflict as good vs. evil or looking for black and white solutions.
Because adding to the most prominent parties in the conflict, the State and the “Marxists” insurgents, there’s still the ELN, Águilas Negras, ‘Don Mario’, ‘El Loco Barrera‘, the oligarchs, the Autodefensas Gaitanos and you name it. Some working independently, others with ties to either the guerrillas or the State and its security force, you name it.
Then there’s also legal parties involved in the conflict. NGO’s (some good, some bad), the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, The United States government and the United Nations.
Being part of the problem
Putting oil on the fire by accusing moderate people of supporting FARC
or without serious legal back up accusing President Uribe of being a
paramilitary is not helping. Looking at the number of people who have
been murdered after being falsely accused of being FARC supporters and considering being a paramilitary makes you part of Colombia’s most lethal armed group should make you think twice before throwing a rock.
Denying the complexity of the conflict or ignoring the fact it is
impossible to speak of good vs. evil makes you part of the problem. You
are going to end up admitting you were horribly wrong about some things once
justice finds its way.
Being part of the solution
It is the supporters of the government that should tell the government it should stop committing human rights violations and it is those who agree more with the FARC’s ideology who should tell the FARC to stop taking people hostage. Exchanging polarizing accusations isn’t really helping anyone.
It is the moderate voices of both the left and the right who will be able to seek an approach between the two camps and are the key to the solution in Colombia’s conflict and it’s those moderate voices who deserve your appreciation and support.
International democratic values
We ‘gringos’ were born and raised in democratic societies and within our societies we also have opposites. However, raised as democrats we have the experience in solving our differences through debate and compromise and without very serious human rights violations. We sometimes needed wars to defend our values, but we have always demanded these wars to be fought fairly.
We ‘gringos’ have democratic values to defend and should not think the democracy and the human rights we have enjoyed at home are not applicable in Colombia and on Colombians.
Let us use our homegrown values and see if we can use the culture we took from our motherlands in a constructive manner to help the country we all — left, right and center — equally love; Colombia. Let’s be part of the solution and not part of the ongoing problem.
Author Adriaan Alsema is editor-in-chief of Colombia Reports