Historic moment for peace talks as victims’ voices finally heard in Havana, Cuba
Victims of Colombia’s 50-year-old armed conflict finally got a chance to make their voices heard as the first dozen arrived in Havana, Cuba, on August 16 to address the peace delegations.
This is the first time since the peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) began in 2012 that conflict victims have had a chance to address the negotiators.
Each member of the group met individually with the delegations and was given 15 to 20 minutes to make statements, articulate ideas and answer questions from the delegates, a report in Colombia Reports stated.
Among the victims currently before the delegations are: five victims of FARC attacks, three victims of the Colombian military, three victims of the now-disbanded paramilitary groups, and one victim of unknown perpetrators, according to reports.
Another 48 victims will also fly to Havana, Cuba to speak with government and FARC negotiators in the coming days and weeks.
The victims are accompanied by representatives from the United Nations and the National University, who have been in charge of selecting who would attend the peace talks, local reports said.
In a sign that the FARC wants to begin atoning for its actions, lead guerrilla negotiator Ivan Marquez asked forgiveness from one of the victims – a woman named Constanza Turbay – who lost three family members in a FARC ambush on two vehicles in Caquetá Department in 2000, Semana reported on August 17.
“Marquez came up with feelings of sincerity and apologized. It was not a mechanical apology, it was an apology from the heart. He said what happened to my family was wrong,” Turbay was quoted by the news magazine Semana as saying.
Earlier this month, the FARC rebels said they are willing to contribute to a fund to pay reparations to conflict victims.
“We have the absolute willingness to contribute,” local media quoted guerrilla negotiator Pablo Catatumbo as saying.
By Mark Kennedy