The case and the cause

Whoever studies the past in Colombia knows that a version of the dominant class has always existed, where they have accused innocent people of being guilty and the guilty people are not even accused.  This could be David Ravelo Crespo´s case, for being a human rights defender and for immersing himself in just causes and the truths of the most unfortunate people, he has been threatened, displaced and a victim who was sentenced to 18 years in prison.  Ex-paramilitary Mario Jaimes Mejía, alias “El Panadero”, accused him of being one of the intellectual authors of the murder of the Public Works Secretary of Barrancabermeja, David Núñez, in 1991[1], despite much of the evidence being shown to be false and the many testimonies declared in favour of David.

After seven years incarcerated, at last it seems justice has produced a positive result to the requests from the lawyers of CCAJAR that have accompanied David since the beginning.  David Ravelo brings his case to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) so it can be revised and he can be declared innocent.

This Tuesday 20th June is a day now established in the calendar of Barrancabermeja, his home city, where he carried out his social struggle and where he has finally seen freedom.  PBI, who has been accompanying him even before David was sentenced and imprisoned, has been with him also in these moments of  joy and hope, shedding light through photos and stories on his case and his cause.

DR_2Reinaldo VillalbaDavid Ravelo

The sentence

2440 days in prison.  Incarcerated two thousand four hundred and forty days of suns and moons.  Moons and suns that he has not seen for seven years.  Nearly seven years waiting, suffering, frustrated. What happens to truth in this country? Why so mistreated, so violated, so ignored, so…? A context of armed, political and social violence.  An unfair sentence. A homicide that was never committed.  A few photos that accuse him.  A photo that he assures that who is said to have been photographed, isn´t who they say it is.  Who everyone wants it to be.  A few false testimonies.  A few false testimonies incarcerated for another thousand and one reasons.  Reasons of paramilitarism.  Paramilitaries that spread violence.  Violence in Barrancabermeja.  The eighties.  The nineties. The two thousands.  History repeats itself in a spiral.  “You will pay son of a bitch.  You for being communist”.

David RaveloReinaldo Villalba, David Ravelo, Silvia AsenjoReinaldo Villalba

The wait

He is nervous.  His face is tense.  His eyes reflect doubt, uncertainty, nerves.  “Smile for the photo!” Bianca tells him.  But he couldn´t quell his fears.  The entrance into the third patio of the prison in Barrancabermeja that is acting as the waiting room seems to get smaller and become suffocating.  The heat is dense.  The door, although huge, suddenly seems tiny.  The lock seems like it will never open.  I see it get smaller until it disappears.  The telephone, that rings every now and again controlled by the policeman on guard, doesn´t receive the expected call.  The guard who should look over the document that grants conditional liberty and who should know what is happening in every corner of this colonial building, seems to have forgotten that David Ravelo, today at last, will leave here in freedom.

David RaveloDR_8DR_10DR_11

The doubt

The waiting is drawn out.  The sun does not decrease in density not even in the shade and you can hardly notice the soft breeze that blows at mid afternoon through Barrancabermeja. On the other side of the doors, we are waiting, nervous, excited, with mixed emotions.  There are a lot of us.  There are banners, music, phones at the ready to take all the snapshots the crows will allow us.  The media begins to get impatient.  They have been waiting two hours and they need to edit their pieces, but David still has not left.  “Are they not going to let him out in the end?” They frown and their doubt becomes apparent.  Why must we always cast doubt in Colombia.  Over nearly everything.

DR_14DR_15David RaveloDavid Ravelo

The lie

“David Ravelo´s case is a good story”, exclaims a journalist from Barrancabermeja after the press conference that the human rights defender carried out today in the capital of the Magdalena Medio. I reply that more than just a good story, his case, being incarcerated seven years accused of a homicide that he never committed, forms part of the history of Colombia.  A confusing case where numbers, dates, facts and the “alias”, who accused him with evidence that has been shown to be false, mix in such a way that the investigation has been arduous.  Lies have to be constructed carefully so they are converted into a supposed and credible truth.

David RaveloDavid RaveloDR_12DR_13


And what will the streets say now David is walking through them? Will they embrace him as they did when he demanded justice, truth and rights?  “Being with the people, living for them”.  As though he were living through his own personal and lifelong motto, he repeats this phrase over and over again because it has been the engine which has never failed him.  The religion he has clung to, his own spiritual dogma, his personal yoga.  He walks through Barrancabermeja and it is only the lack of wings that prevent him from lifting up from the ground.  He is strong, multicoloured.  Surrounded by his large family, he cannot do anything else but smile and hug them, appreciate and kiss them.  In the streets and with the people, today David feels pure freedom.

Bianca Bauer y Silvia Arjona. Barrancabermela

Nota de pie:

[1]     El Espectador: El confuso caso de David Ravelo llega a la Justicia Especial de Paz, 20 June 2017

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