Colombia Truth Commission Report: Live Updates
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — The head of Colombia’s National Truth Commission thanked the many victims of the country’s decades of internal violence for “overcoming fear” to tell their stories to the panel whose long-awaited report on the fighting will be released on Tuesday .
At a presentation accompanying the report’s release, the head of the commission, Father Francisco de Roux, spoke at length about the often painful work, which lasted almost four years and involved more than 14,000 individual and group interviews.
The commission’s report aims to be the most comprehensive account yet of Colombia’s long and brutal internal conflict, which has lasted at least 58 years, affecting almost every sector of Colombian society and costing hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars.
The report, overseen by a group of 11 commissioners, is the result of the 2016 peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government. At Tuesday’s report release ceremony, the commissioners sat on the stage of a theater in Bogotá, some in shirts that read “There is a future when there is truth.”
The commissioners were instructed not only to investigate human rights abuses committed by all actors between 1958 and 2016, but also to write a comprehensive history of the conflict’s impact on social, economic, political, cultural and environmental rights – and then make recommendations accordingly put the country on the path to lasting peace.
The commission was also asked to examine the factors that have perpetuated the conflict, including the rise of paramilitary groups and the rapid growth of an all-powerful cocaine industry.
The Colombian conflict began as a war between the government and the FARC, the country’s largest rebel group, but eventually developed into a complex struggle also involving paramilitary groups and the United States government, which provided billions of dollars in aid to Colombians made available to help them fight the insurgency and the drug trade that funded it.
The conflict left deep wounds in the country that have not yet healed – an estimated 260,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians, and more than five million have been displaced from their homes by the violence.
The report was unveiled at a ceremony in a theater in the capital named after Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a presidential candidate whose assassination in 1948 is widely believed to have preceded the conflict with the FARC.
The inquiry was expected to be highly critical of the US role in the war. Today, the drug’s staple crop, the coca leaf, is being grown at record rates, despite more than 20 years of efforts by the United States to eradicate the Colombian cocaine trade. according to US data.
The report comes at a critical juncture in Colombia. Just this month, the country elected its first left-wing president, Gustavo Petro.
Mr Petro had championed issues of social and economic justice and inclusion – issues also promoted by the peace accord and related transitional justice process. He now faces a daunting task of delivering on his promises in a deeply divided society and an economy plagued by high inflation, a large deficit and chronic poverty.
Mr. Petro and Vice President-elect Francia Márquez attended the launch ceremony. Outgoing President Iván Duque, a conservative who had campaigned against the peace deal, did not.
Father de Roux told the audience he believed Mr Petro would implement the report’s recommendations.
Mr. Petro then took the stage and the two men shook hands and Father de Roux presented a copy of the report to the President-elect. The sobriety of the moment contrasted sharply with Mr Petro’s last major public appearance when he accepted the presidency to thunderous applause.
Mr Petro told the audience that he believed the report could help “end the cycles of violence for good” that the country had suffered for generations, but that could only happen if the report was not used as a weapon of revenge will be used. Societies will always have conflict, he said, “but conflict cannot mean death.”
The report is non-judicial and the Commission will not impose any judgments or penalties. This process is conducted by another body, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, also created by the peace accord.
Instead, according to commission documents, the Truth Commission is designed to “establish ethical and political responsibilities” while seeking to establish a shared truth and “lay the groundwork for the transformations necessary to make peace possible.”