Displaced persons reply to editorial in El Tiempo
Below is a copy of the letter sent by the National Organisation of Displaced People [La Coordinación Nacional de Desplazados] to El Tiempo, [Colombia’s largest circulation daily newspaper], in reply to an article “A Worrying Trend” ["Racha Preocupante"]. The article blamed and stigmatized the capital’s population of displaced people – displaced from elsewhere by the country’s conflicts – for the increased number of murders in the city:
Bogotá 28 February 2008
To: The Editor
SUJECT: EDITORIAL ON 27 FEBRUARY 2008 - “A WORRYING TREND”
The National Organisation of Displaced People is an umbrella body for 246 organisations of displaced people at local, regional and national levels based in various parts of the country. We exist to coordinate demands that the authorities implement the State’s guarantees on the rights of the displaced. We also seek to analyse the various factors feeding the armed and socioeconomic conflicts suffered by this country, and the use of Forced Displacement as a strategy for war and death.
As a national organization, therefore, we wish to refer to your editorial of 27 February 2008, “A Worrying Trend”, which said:
“Professional killings are not the only concern. In a debate in the Council yesterday the Department of Government revealed that, in 62% of those cases where the killers are known, they are connected to the victims by family or friendship or romantic links. This calls for a special political effort on security, going further than campaigns on prevention. There has, for instance, to be a study of the extent to which the flow of displaced people to the capital – more than 50,000 registrations were received last year – contributes to increased social tensions in areas like Los Mártires, Santa Fe, Usme and Ciudad Bolívar, which have the highest murder rates”.
For us, this reference is a clear stigmatization of displaced people. It will increase the social rejection of our children in school and of our people at work when it is so wickedly suggested that we may be responsible for the increased number of murders in the capital.
For your information, we wish to make some clarifications.
In our communities we had what we needed to develop with dignity. We have been forced, though, to leave our own lands in an effort to save our lives. Because of this, we must survive – marginalised and abandoned – in large cities, which are very different from the places we dream of and where we plan to spend our lives.
There are 4 million displaced people in Colombia. Our human rights have been violated in a strategy, implemented by paramilitarism, which sought to destroy politically and socially organised areas. It stigmatized us as supporters of the guerillas, occupied our lands for coca cultivation and to create strategic corridors to export drugs and import arms. It took over our lands for plans and superplans to develop farming, energy, mining, tourism and large-scale ranching.
It should also be remembered that in the areas you mention our displaced youths are murdered by groups calling themselves “The Black Eagles” [ the name, “Aguilas Negras” of a notorious paramilitary formation], and that many of our leaders are persecuted and murdered throughout the country. You do not ask that those responsible for these bloody crimes should be sought among armed groups now supposedly no longer in existence - like paramilitarism itself.
It is reprehensible that you should insinuate that those responsible for the increase in murders in
Bogotá are the very victims of the crime of Forced Displacement: we fled from our lands rather than join armed groups, to keep our lives and our dignity, because escape was our only weapon of defence.
As victims we seek the good name of our community. We ask, therefore, that you immediately correct your editorial of 27 February 2008 ,“A Worrying Trend” and we ask that , in fairness, this correction appear in the space in your newspaper where the editorial was published.
National Executive Committee
National Organisation of Displaced People (C.N.D.)
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621