Walking inexhaustibly through the jungle for three days and three nights while being gravely ill, Oscar Tulio Lizcano escaped from the guerrilla members that had held him captive for over 8 years.
He could have not succeeded at such a brave attempt to recover his right to freedom without the help of one of the men that held him captive, “Isaza”. The guerrilla member, having to deal with the consequences of intense military presence surrounding his camp, decided to leave the FARC and to help former representative Lizcano escape with him.
Lizcano’s perseverance is admirable, and the fact that he endured over 8 years of depravation from his right to freedom, and still managed to walk through the jungle in his frail condition is remarkable, and ultimately heroic.
Lizcano’s return to freedom has been widely celebrated all over the world. Nonetheless, that latest episode in the longstanding story of FARC kidnappings came once again with significant implications regarding human rights.
For instance, what is it that the government will really end up doing with “Isaza”? Does a member of the guerrilla that has committed crimes against human rights deserve impunity because of his commendable actions? Would this serve as an effective tactic to erode the FARC and their disgusting use of kidnapping as a tactic, or would it legitimize accusations that the Colombian government does little to prevent impunity?
In the rocky road to peace and prosperity, Colombia once again finds itself dealing with complex issues related to human rights. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have recently expressed stern disapproval of President Uribe’s dealing with human rights.
Recently, President Uribe had to go forward with an unprecedented purge in the Colombian military due to the actions of active military members against human rights.
The military purge served as window into the many episodes during Uribe’s administration that raise concerns about the government’s ability to ensure respect for human rights, and furthermore, that directly accuse governmental officials for acts against human rights.
Human rights concerns have been at the center of the discussion regarding the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Colombia, specifically related to the safety of labor leaders. Similar concerns have been expressed about journalists, and other media officials, and lately, indigenous populations have also been at the center of the debate.
Nonetheless, during the Uribe years, Colombia has made outstanding advancements dealing with what is arguably the most threatened of human rights in the nation – the right to freedom.
Kidnappings have decreased substantially during Uribe’s time in office, and many, like Lizcano and Ingrid Betancourt, have recovered their freedom, whether directly or indirectly because of the pressure that Uribe and the Colombian military has put on the weakening FARC.
As President Elect Barack Obama prepares to take office and reassess the foreign relations between the United States and other nations, he has repeatedly expressed the importance of ensuring respect for human rights around the world.
The success of the relations between Colombia and the Obama administration will greatly depend on the Colombian’s government ability to assure human rights, starting with governmental officials.
More so, as Colombia starts looking at the far, yet now plausible prospect of achieving national peace, it is essential to envision and work towards a country in which human rights are at the core of the government’s mission, and a constant frame to the lives of all Colombian citizens.
International support will be crucial to achieve such a goal, and doing so will significantly enhance the ability of Colombia to successfully engage in relations with other nations.
Author Felipe Estefan is Colombian and studies media and international relations in New York.