Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos publicly apologized Monday to the victims of a 1999 massacre in southern Colombia.
Santos went on to unveil a new Reparations for Victims Act, declaring the need, “to heal wounds that have been open for too long, to see if we can move society forward, together as Colombians, to build a better future, because if we look at the past and try to pull nails, then we will never make progress.”
Santos’ words came during a presentation of the Transitional Justice Committee of Mocoa, in Putumayo, an organization designed to implement the new law.
During the speech Santos said, “I know that a loved one or a recovered rape victim can never forget, can never delete this from their memory, but somehow it can be mitigated and the anger can be changed for forgiveness. It is not easy but we must try.”
The President outlined that, while monetary reparations to victims are important, efforts to “rebuild the the material and social” fabric of society through committees and organisation are critical for the future of the country.
Wrapped up in the new act was the idea that victims due compensation from events such as the massacre of El Tigre allow money to be sunk in to development projects, with extra subsidies from the government to make the most of the cash.
Santos called for “giving priority to victims who are willing to contribute their monetary relief in a project that benefits the family, for example in education,” and emphasised “any project that represents social benefit to the family more than just monetary reward.”
Branding the concept ‘synergy’, Santos went on to illustrate the principle by saying, “If the victim has a home, then you have a housing project, the victims put in their money, we put in the subsidy, the governor or mayor contributes, and the victim gets a house for much less.”
Putumayo is a traditional stronghold of the FARC rebel group.
It has been estimated by the UN that, during their time in existence, AUC paramilitaries were responsible for 80% of human rights atrocities in Colombia.
Demobilization of the AUC paramilitary organisation began in 2003 , with around 30,000 people handing over arms by the time the demobilization officially ended in 2006.
Despite demobilization many successor groups continue, with a notable presence now seen in the north of Colombia.