I suffered 'the greatest humiliation': ex-hostages face FARC summit

(ED) Former FARC guerrilla commanders Julián Gallo, Pastor Alape, Rodrigo Londoño and “Timochenko”, Rodrigo Granda and Milton Toncel (Joaquín Gómez), during an acknowledgment hearing for thousands of kidnappings in Colombia on 21 June 2022 – AFP

Diva Díaz faced the commanders of the former Colombian FARC guerrilla who took the blame for the kidnapping of her father and sister. ‘Why did they turn against my family?’, the woman asked the former guerrillas who broke down in apologies and tears for their crimes.

Six years after signing the peace agreement, the former rebel leadership responded for 21,000 kidnappings carried out over six decades of conflict, in an emotional three-day hearing that ended on Thursday (23).

Díaz heard the words of regret from his family’s executioners. Former abductees and their families were given the chance to question them face to face for the pain and humiliation they suffered, with judges from the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) as witnesses.

In Timochenko’s mind, his commander at the time of disarmament, Joaquín Gómez, Julián Gallo, Rodrigo Granda, Pablo Catatumbo, Jaime Alberto Parra and Pastor Alape, moved to tears, admitted their guilt for these war crimes and against humanity in the auditorium. of the court emerged in the 2016 settlement.

According to what was agreed in Havana, the former guerrillas must make amends to those affected and tell the truth to avoid arrest. Victims will have 15 days to make their observations and the JEP provides for sanctions.

Check out some testimonies and confessions:

– “Fury” –

In September 1998, Juan Antonio Díaz was kidnapped by the FARC. He spent 16 months in captivity, which ruined the prosperous merchant in the city of Neiva (center) and his family members.

“The entire family broke up,” recalls Diva, her eldest daughter, during the hearing. In exchange for his release, the guerrillas demanded a fortune, but his family members could not pay.

Then, in captivity, they made Juan Antonio believe that they had forgotten him and that his children were “the worst in the world”.

He was released in December 1999, but at the same time one of his daughters was kidnapped. The merchant reported the case to the press and in October 2000 he died at the hands of a gunman.

Twenty-two years later, Diva opens up and asks a poignant question: “Why did you get so mad at my family?”.

“El Paisa”, then head of Coluna Teófilo Forero, in charge of the kidnappings, could have responded, but he returned to arms and authorities assume he was killed in 2021 in Venezuela.

His boss in the South Bloc, Joaquín Gómez, took responsibility and admitted that “there was fury against his family, emotional blackmail and deceit”.

“I am aware that your father’s life is irreparable and that we have caused unimaginable damage in causing his death”, read the feared commander, now graying.

– Ordeal on foot –

Representing his four brothers, Héctor Angulo faced the FARC “secretariat” for the kidnapping and subsequent murder of his parents, Gerardo and Carmen Castañeda.

Both were 68 years old when a rebel command intercepted them as they parked their car in La Calera, a municipality neighboring Bogotá. After a long journey on foot through a mountain range, they reached San Juanito, almost 120 km away.

Héctor laments the suffering of two elderly people who “did not engage in criminal activities”. They worked in a clothing workshop until that fateful April 19, 2000.

After the peace agreement, the children walked the same steep path alongside ex-combatants who participated in the search for the remains of their victims as a gesture of reparation.

They found Carmen’s remains, but while they were searching, Héctor suffered a strong fall that caused a brain tumor. Gerardo’s body still doesn’t appear.

Jaime Alberto Parra, known as “the doctor” of the FARC, listened to his claim with an expressionless face.

“It was us as an extinct guerrilla organization who held them captive, who forced them to walk, who murdered them and disappeared with them,” admitted Parra.

Retired sergeant César Lasso, released in 2012 after 13 years in captivity, attended the hearing. He wore a police coat and the iron chains with which they tied him around the neck, causing him “the greatest humiliation”.

Also wearing a camouflage suit was army colonel Raimundo Malagón, rescued in a military operation in 2018 that ended 10 years of captivity.

Pastor Alape told him, with regret, we looked at “the military as the representative of State violence” and “we didn’t get to see the citizen under the uniform”.

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