Colombia’s interior minister was booed by the audience at a forum held Monday for victims of the FARC.
Juan Fernando Cristo, who himself is victim of the armed conflict – his father was killed by the ELN guerrilla group in 1997 – was heckled by attendees over disagreements with how the government plans to deal with the FARC rebel group in an eventual peace deal, including concerns they will not be sufficiently punished.
Government sources have pointed to Uribe-loyalists like Senator Maria Fernanda Cabal and the right-wing National Restoration party, both political opponents of the current administration, as being behind the incident, according to El Espectador.
Victims are politicized: Minister
“It shows a lack of respect to the victims of the FARC to politicize them,” Cristo responded in a tweet.
“We understand the pain of the victims of all the armed groups and this government has moved forward in their recognition…[the President] is conscious that never will truth, justice, and reconciliation be sufficient to compensate for the losses and pain of the victims,” the minister added.
Clara Rojas, a former vice-presidential candidate famously held by the FARC for six years, said before the event that “it will be a space for the victims of the FARC to express their ideas and arrive at some minimum common agreements. We hopes to arrive at positives conclusions and a joint position toward the peace process.
The forum hosted some 1,500 victims of the FARC from all over the country from various social and ethnic groups, according to an email from the organizers of the event. The United Nations, government ministries, and various victims and human rights organizations backed the event.
FARC victims speak
Meanwhile, victims of the FARC as speaking up over recent reports that Henry Castellanos, alias “Romaña,” has gone to Havana, Cuba, to participate in the peace talks with the government.
Romaña is one of the rebels’ most infamous leaders as he is alleged to have invented the mechanisms for mass kidnappings and the mass capture of enemy fighters for which the FARC became known in the 1990s when they were at the height of their military power.
Feelings are mixed, according to a report by El Tiempo. Some victims find it hard to swallow that the man responsible for the kidnap and murder of a loved one be allowed to talk peace. One victim described it as a “prize” to be allowed to go to Havana.
Another victim, held captive by the FARC for 6 months in 2000, spoke of the importance of the presence of Romaña for the success of the talks.
“[He] has a great command of the troops, which shows that the guerrillas are united in the process to hand over their arms. Furthermore, he will have to be held accountable, especially to the families that still do not know where their disappeared and kidnapped loved ones are,” she affirmed.
- Rechiflas al Mininterior ¿politización de las víctimas? (El Espectador)
- Rechiflas y abucheos para ministro Juan Fernando Cristo en foro de víctima (El Espectador)
- Email from forum organizers
- Víctimas de las Farc hablan de la crueldad de ‘Romaña’ (El Tiempo)