The Fight for Justice Continues in Trujillo

Walking up the small hill that leads to the Park-Monument for Memory, in the municipality of Trujillo, you instantly feel the powerful energy of this magnificent place. A monument was not requested to keep alive the memory of the Trujillo massacre’s victims (1986 -1994), but instead, two hills in the municipality and there the Park-Monument for Memory was built. It is the largest in Colombia and probably “the largest in Latin America,” according to Sister Maritze. This space not only honors the victims of the Trujillo massacre but also victims of the different massacres that have ravaged Colombia from La Guajira to Putumayo.

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Saturday morning on August 17th, organizations, students, and survivors came together, invited by the Association of Relatives of the Victims of the Trujillo Massacre (AFAVIT, in Spanish) to participate in a peregrination for memory and a symbolic act to remember Father Tiberio, who was assassinated on April 17th, 1990.[1]

Trujillo Masacre

This peregrination was also held in memory of the human rights defenders and social leaders assassinated due to their struggle in the defense of life, their territories, and social justice. When we arrived, we met with Sister Maritze and Father Javier Giraldo, who has been accompanying this process for many years and is always present to honor the armed conflict’s victims.

Hace a look at the Photo Gallery here

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Sister Maritze radiates enormous positive energy, with her smile she embraces you as she thanks you for being there and narrates the tragic stories that remain in Trujillo’s collective memory, because “we continue fighting for justice and to keep the memory alive,” she tells us. At the park’s entrance, there is a building with meeting rooms, a restaurant, chapel, and memory museum. This where everyone is gathered, people who traveled from different cities to participate in the peregrination. Everyone was welcomed with a delicious breakfast, as they walk through a piece of history told with texts and photos hung on the walls of the rooms. In the words of Sister Maritze, who never stops telling the story: “Look! Here is our timeline, since the 24 cooperatives were created, thanks to Father Tiberio’s support, so that the town and the peasants could organize and get out of poverty…  and the peasant marches at the end of the eighties to demand their rights! […]” And then she continued with a touch of sadness in her voice: “[…] but that was Father Tiberio’s death sentence. After, he was accused of being a guerilla and then he was disappeared, tortured, and assassinated.”

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Between 1988 and 1994, 342 people were killed, tortured, or disappeared in the municipalities of Trujillo, Bolívar, and Riofrío (Valle del Cauca).[2] The violence resulted from an alliance between the commanders of state security forces and paramilitaries that operated in the region, looking to control the territory and illegal economic interests. The case was brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, that ruled against the Colombian state due to its responsibility in the massacre.[3] The state held a recognition event in April 2016.[4]

In the years that followed, in spite of the fear, the victims’ families organized and founded AFAVIT (1995) to demand justice and reparation.  Since then, the association’s members have been constantly threatened, attacked, and even killed. Nevertheless, in the last few months an important event, for AFAVIT’s members, occurred. Henry Loaiza Ceballos, alias “El Alacrán” was re-captured. He is a man who was sentenced to 30 years in jail for his responsibility in this massacre. He had not only recognized his actions, but he had also asked the victims for forgiveness,[5] however, he once again broke the law in the south of the country.[6]

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One of the individuals present, told us how this news has provided a bit of tranquility. Last year, after he was released and had returned to the region, the tension, threats, and desecration of the tombs in the memory park also returned … creating a situation that was so tense and full of threats that in 2019 Sister Maritze participated in a temporary relocation program in Madrid, Spain.[7] She returned a few months ago, once again full of her characteristic energy to continue the fight.

In spite of the suffering and threats, the Sister and AFAVIT organized once again this national peregrination. With pride they tell us that it is the twentieth year that they have organized the event and that they will not stop telling the history of Trujillo and Tiberio Father, “so that people never forgot that in Trujillo, its inhabitants, peasants, were tortured and assassinated for trying to organize themselves to get out of poverty, the involvement of state agents, and that today the threats continue in an attempt to silence us,” the nun insists.

At the foot of the building at the park’s entrance, we began to walk along the “Path of Memory,” where plaques remember Colombia’s massacres, in addition to messages on memory, hope, and cries for justice. The participants met at the path’s end, at the “International Wall of Love” where there was a tribute to Father Tiberio and his fight for social justice and against corruption. There was also a special tribute to the human rights defenders, leaders, and others who have been killed for expressing ideas that differ from those of the State. “Resist and never give up!” was the day’s motto and that of the many struggles.

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Sister Maritze commented that this event looks to highlight the importance of memory, the enormous importance of these moments of coming together and remembering, through art and other means, to transmit that memory to the youth. The event also sought to call attention to the current situation, where the country’s leaders are being murdered because they have assumed the risk of denouncing human rights violations in their regions, because they defend their territory, or accompany victims in the search for justice and truth. They look to make these stories visible so that Colombia can be transformed and shine in the construction of a society in peace.

Look at the Photo Gallery.

Nathalie Bienfait and Barbara Orozco


[1] El Espectador: El asesinato del padre Tiberio, 17 April 2010 ; CNMH: El Padre Tiberio en la memoria de Trujillo y Colombia, 17 April 2013

[2] PBI Colombia: Masacre de Trujillo, 7 August 2016 ; CNMH: Trujillo, una tragedia que no cesa, September 2008

[3] IACHR: Report no. 68/16, case 11,007, Report on friendly settlement, Trujillo Massacre, Colombia, 30 November 2016

[4] Verdad Abierta: En Trujillo aún esperan reparación y no repetición de la violencia, 24 April 2016

[5] ElPaí A través de una carta, alias El Alacrán pidió perdón por la masacre de Trujillo, 5 October 2019

[6] Semana: El Alacrán, el histórico capo que se reencauchó en la temible banda La Constru, 26 June 2019

[7] Programa Acogida Temporal a Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos: Maritze Trigos Torres

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