A Colombian TV show, “Tres Caines,” which fictionalizes the story of the country’s paramilitary violence, is under fire from victims groups and losing commercial sponsorships.
“Tres Caines,” or “Three Cains” (a play on the Bible’s Cain and Abel), tells the story of the Castaño brothers, two of whom were the original founders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the paramilitary umbrella organization responsible for the majority of over 25,000 confessed murders and many other crimes. The show first aired on March 4, 2013.
The real drama began on March 7 when the president of the University of Antioquia, Alberto Uribe, wrote an angry letter to RCN, the channel airing the telenovela, insisting that scenes shot on campus not be shown. In the show, certain characters begin as students at the University of Antioquia before developing militant ideologies and becoming paramilitaries. Uribe was concerned with the stigma these scenes might give the university.
RCN responded by removing the scenes and offering an apology to the university. But the scandal was just beginning.
Critics lambasted the telenovela for portraying Colombia in a bad light. The scriptwriter, Gustavo Bolivar, defended his work in an open letter, saying that Colombian history portrays the country in a bad light, not the fictionalized interpretations of that history.
To emphasize his point he gave a mocking example of the logic of his critics: “It wasn’t Pablo Escobar who gave Colombia a poor image in the world, it was [Gabriel] Garcia Marquez … and his book ‘News of a Kidnapping‘.”
The Association of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees (ASFADDES), an advocacy group for the families of the disappeared, sent a letter to the lead actor expressing their discontent with the series.
“Please, every time that you put on the uniform and incarnate this personality don’t forget that every deed you reenact as fiction we, the relatives of the victims of forced disappearance, relive again and again in the flesh.”
The actor, Julian Roman, replied in a letter expressing his empathy: “I understand the pain, the anger and frustration that you feel. I ask your forgiveness for the pain I’ve caused.”
He added that the idea of the show was to generate dialogue “to strengthen us as a society.” He made no indication of leaving the show.
All the letter-sending and forgiveness-asking gained gravity when large sponsors began pulling their commercials, and thus their funding, from the telenovela.
The boycott began as so many movements begin these days, with social media. A Facebook campaign called “Noen3caines,” inaugurated just two weeks ago, began spreading its message: in order to take action on the show you have to go after its funding.
“Tired of seeing programs that paint our country ever more as nacrotraffickers, paramilitaries, guerrillas, and prostitutes? Do you want to do something about it? This is your page.” The Facebook page encourages readers to vocalize their outrage on the internet, and direct it towards the sponsors.
“Say no to the companies that advertise with violence,” the Facebook page says.
So far five major sponsors have withdrawn from the project: Nivea, Auteco, Falabella, Esika, and Winny.
However, the Colombia Institute of Family Wellbeing (ICBF), a large government program, has yet to withdraw its sponsorship. Defending the decision Diego Molano, director of the institute, claimed it was important for prime-time viewers to receive the message of his campaign “Champion Made at Home,” which seeks to raise awareness about child abuse.
- Ya son 5 los anunciantes que retiran su pauta de la serie Tres Caines (Publicidad y Mercadeo)
- Noen3caines (Facebook)
- Icbf no retirara la pauta a ‘Los Tres Caines,’ reitero Diego Molano (W Radio)
- Julian Roman se disculpo por papel como Carlos Castaño (El Tiempo)
- Gustavo Bolivar, libretista de ‘Tres Caines’ deja ver su posicion ante las criticas sobre la serie (Estereofonica)
- “Tres Caines” y su alusion a la UdeA (Universidad de Antioquia)