BOGOTA – Relatives of the thousands of people “disappeared” during Colombia’s internal armed conflict on Tuesday asked that their loved ones not be forgotten in a country at peace and that the reconciliation reached with the FARC guerrillas help to preserve the memory of what occurred during the 52-year war so that it is not repeated.
At the commemoration of the International Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearance – and the Colombian government calculates that 64,920 people are unaccounted for – men, women and children gathered in Bogota to remind the state of the “historic debt” of trying to find their relatives and returning their remains to them.
“Today we have a slogan that ... we will not forget the disappeared during peacetime,” said Janet Bautista, the director of the foundation named for Nydia Erika Bautista, who went missing on Aug. 30, 1987, and who also suffered the loss of her friend, both of whom were guerrillas with the M-19 organization, which demobilized in 1990.
“Today more than ever the country, the state has to pay that historic debt it has with the disappeared and with their relatives to seriously look for them, to find them and to return them to us, and above all to guarantee that the children and young people in the future may go out in the street without fear of going missing,” she added.
The downtown Bogota site where the National Museum of Memory will be erected was the scene selected by relatives, members of social organizations and activists to stage a “symbolic sowing” of people and seek a catharsis to recall the victims of forced disappearance.
“We’re sowing our bodies so that here in Bogota they take notice that we have more than 45,000 disappeared around the country,” said Luz Marina Bernal, the mother of Fair Leonardo Porras, a young mentally disabled man who was falsely counted among the combat dead in an army operation.
Maria Jose Pizarro, the daughter of the assassinated leader of M-19, Carlos Pizarro, said that the event in Bogota is one way to “create a social awareness ... of forced disappearance.”
“Part of building a stable and lasting peace is ... (ensuring) the country knows the dimension of its own tragedy, acknowledges the pain ... that its citizens experienced,” said National Museum of Memory director Martha Nubia Abello.
After more than five decades of armed conflict the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas on Aug. 24 signed a peace accord after almost four years of negotiations in Havana.