After six months of avoiding arrest under false and unjust charges, three land struggle leaders from the communities of El Guayabo and Bella Unión have returned home.
On October 25, Erik Payares, Jhon Fredy Ortega and Santos Peña turned themselves in to Barrancabermeja’s prosecutor’s office to defend their innocence against charges of possession of weapons, personal injury and conspiracy to commit crime. All but the last charge has been dropped. The judge ruled against the need to imprison them since they were not a risk to the community and had demonstrated their intentions to fully cooperate with the remaining investigation.
Después de seis meses de evitar la detención bajo cargos falsos e injustos, tres líderes campesinos de las comunidades de El Guayabo y Bella Unión volvieron a casa.
El 25 de octubre, Erik Payares, Jhon Fredy Ortega y Santos Peña se entregaron a la Fiscalía de Barrancabermeja para defender su inocencia contra cargos de posesión de armas, lesiones personales y concierto para delinquir. Todos excepto el último fueron retirados. El juez les concedió la libertad considerando que no son un riesgo para la comunidad y demuestran sus intenciones de cooperar con la investigación en curso.
On Monday, September 26, 2016, I flew from Canada back to Colombia more excited than usual. After four years of negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia had finally reached a deal, which they would officially ratify that very day.
As I began boarding the plane I saw a cameraman from the CBC news, and my heart fluttered with expectation. Upon landing in Bogotá, I could feel the energy buzzing through the exceptionally long line at customs. I quickly ran downtown to catch the festivities in the main square. Although the official signing was taking place in Cartagena, a historic walled city on the Caribbean coast where Colombia gained its independence, there were tens of thousands of people gathered in the capital to watch the live feed on big screens set up in the square.
Last September, two graying fighters in the hemisphere’s longest-running armed conflict consented to an awkward handshake. Ernesto Londoño wrote in the New York Times that he watched Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleón Jiménez, alias “Timochenko,” head negotiator for the FARC, shake hands “in stunned silence,” astonished at the diplomatic successes of Colombia’s four years of peace talks. On the evening of October 2nd, international observers reacted once again in stunned silence—this time, however, because the prospects for peace were thwarted by an entirely unexpected outcome. The “Yes” vote lost by less than 1% in a surprise to most observers, who predicted that the referendum would pass.
Five days have passed since the October 2nd referendum when 6,431,376 Colombians voted to reject the peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP). The slim win of the “No” vote, by a margin of 54,000 votes, leaves the country in a highly polarized state.
On September 26 with the whole world watching, President Juan Manuel Santos quoted the national anthem, “The horrible night has ceased,” after signing the 297 page peace agreement with the FARC.