Colombia: Government apologises for mass killings of leftists


Photos of forcibly disappeared supporters of the Patriotic Union. Photo: EFE.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos acknowledged the state’s responsibility in the killing of thousands of members of a leftist political party three decades ago, TeleSUR English said on September 15. Santos pledged to prevent such assassinations again.

Santos’ statement came less than two weeks before he will sign a peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Members of the FARC, which has waged a decades-long armed struggle against the Colombian state established a political party the Patriotic Union (UP) to engage in peaceful political campaigns 1980s. UP members and supporters were the targets of a systematic campaign of assassination and terror.

Ultimately, TeleSUR English said, about 5000 UP members and supporters were killed by right-wing paramilitary groups, often working with state backing. A special “Peace and Justice” tribunal determined in 2012 that the campaign against the UP constituted a political genocide.

At an event at which 200 survivors and family members of victims were present, Santos said: “That tragedy should never have happened, and we must recognise that the government didn’t take sufficient measures to impede and prevent the assassinations, attacks and other violations even though there was evidence the persecution was taking place.”

Founded in 1985, the UP was born out of a political negotiation between rebels and the government. The negotiated agreements included a series of political reforms that provided for the creation of a new legal political party to act as a vehicle in the electoral sphere for the FARC’s political ideas.

The deal also included a commitment from the state to defend the political rights of those who put their faith in this new, legal political vehicle for change, TeleSUR English said.

However, the state actively backed efforts to exterminate the party and its members through clandestine schemes such as “Plan Esmeralda” and “Plan Red Dance”.

By 2002, the party, debilitated by the political genocide, was officially declared dead by Colombia’s electoral authority after it failed to get the necessary amount of votes in that year’s election.

As part of this latest peace agreement with the FARC rebels, which the FARC and government hope will finally end the conflict that has wracked the South American nation for more than five decades, the government has again promised to guarantee FARC rebels safety once they hand in their arms.

The group again plans to launch a political party and stand for office.

TeleSUR English reported that Santos said: “I make the solemn commitment before you today to take all the necessary measures and to give all the guarantees to make sure that never again in Colombia will a political organisation have to face what the UP suffered.”

On September 12, the FARC also apologised for kidnapping thousands of people to fund its half-century of conflict with the government.

The two sides are gearing up to sign a peace accord to end the war, which has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions. About 7000 FARC fighters will be incorporated into society.

After the official signing of the deal signing on September 26, it will be put to a vote plebiscite on October 2, allowing Colombians to decide whether to accept the accord.

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