Where dreams lie

Juan and Gloria worked as unlicensed vendors selling sweets on buses. They dreamed of earning more for their families.  It’s therefore not surprising that these young people who were just 25 years old, accepted a proposal to go and work on a farm where they would earn a better wage. Could it be that “the mountain helps […] wake sleeping dreams?” (Haroun Tazieff)

Eight years later, Bettina and I are here, starting the same journey that took Juan and Gloria to Eastern Antioquia.  We cross paths that go up and go down, in a beautiful landscape dominated by mountains, high pastures and small waterfalls, born of the last rain.  We see the occasional farmer looking for his cow, others are cutting cane. Far from the urban bustle, the paths we follow breathe tranquillity and neither the heat, nor the swampy mud, nor the inevitable falling over, can stop us.

Two and a half hours later, arriving at our destination, we get down off the cloud and into sad reality. Because for Juan and Gloria it was a one way journey, a journey to their death they began that day in January when they got on a municipal bus to the supposed farm, their heads full of dreams of money because of their precarious economic situation.

Their families heard nothing more of them, until three years after the events when they received news that on that day in January the army had killed them in combat against a guerrilla group in that same spot, in a conflict area which had been mined by the guerrillas back then.

We do not know with certainty what happened. That is why we are here accompanying the Corporation for Judicial Freedom (Corporación Jurídica Libertad, CJL) which protects the interests of victims and their family members, in a process of reconstructing and clarifying the facts of the disappearance and subsequent homicide of this young couple.  In this procedural exercise, experts from the Forensic Medecine Institute (Instituto de Medicina Legal), members of the armed forces, including those under investigation for the facts and their lawyer, took part in a procedure designed to test the version given by the military.  This remains a difficult task, in part because the scene of the crime has changed over the course of the years.

Perhaps Juan and Gloria’s story can join the list, sadly so long, of the horrific practice of what are called ‘false positives’, executions of civilians carried out illegally by members of State security forces and manipulated by them to be made to appear as the lawful killing of guerrillas in combat, with the purpose of “showing results” in the Colombian armed conflict.  Many cases remain invisible and in total impunity.[1]

It is curious and strange, that through the force of the violence they  endured and the pain still suffered, we came to know this paradisiacal beauty, where lie the dreams of this young couple which seem to come back to life between the green of the vegetation and the song of the little stream where their voices were silenced.

– Delphine

[1] UNHCHR, Report of the Mission of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston, to Colombia. Doc. A/HRC/14/24/Add.2 (8–18 June 2009), 31 March 2010.

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