||Posted: Aug. 21 2003,05:14
Editor's note: the following letter, translated from the original Spanish, has been provided to us by Glenn Paige as a background to his report about Governor Gaviria. We think you will find it an eloquent testimony to the power of nonviolence as a guiding principle for life. It is reprinted here in two parts.
Corrected translation July 7, 2003
Last letter from Governor Gaviria to his Father
Mountains of Colombia
January 2, 2003
Part 1 of 2 parts:
I remember when I was first thinking about the “Caicedo March” I would purposely avoid talking to you about it; I knew you would not agree with my plans. During the preparation and promotion process I preferred to maintain discretion and I think you understood my reasons. Despite the fact that you considered my approach to be dangerous and probably useless, as you warned me many times, you respected my decision with deep resignation. But you were right as usual and I always knew it.
Just as you predicted, the results of the march have not been what I so fervently hoped for. I put myself at risk and affected the well-being of our family and loved ones. You were also right in forecasting my inability to continue fulfilling my responsibilities as a governor and trying to restore Antioquia, turning into reality everything promised to our people. You were right when you predicted the slight chance we had for FARC- EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia- People’s Army) to recognize this march as an opportunity for a nonviolent reconciliation. Unfortunately, FARC- EP decided to ignore our call for Nonviolence, a call that was slowly but surely starting to rise in Antioquia. They instead chose to take us hostage, taking away our freedom along with the possibility of constructing a good and honest government that would listen to the people’s needs.
Despite obvious limitations due to my captivity, I believe that not only has part of my original purpose been preserved but, I realize that the philosophy of nonviolence has also quickly spread among the inhabitants of Antioquia exceeding my own expectations. More often than not, we expect social transformations to occur in a matter of months when they actually take generations along with some luck…or lots of luck I should say. Father, I am conscious that to introduce and promote such a demanding way of understanding our role in society will constitute a challenge that will require the work of a lifetime. I am also aware that there are many people in Colombia, especially among our own “leaders,” who believe we are “too violent” to incorporate in our way of thinking Gandhi’s, Martin Luther King’s or even Jesus Christ’s ideas, which allow to modify our methods of dealing with problems, injustices, and violence itself. Call it stubbornness, but I rather think of it as perseverance. I still believe that sooner than later the Antioquian community, and maybe all of Colombia, will look for the strength that only Nonviolence offers.
In the midst of captivity, it comforts me to perceive myself as a contributor in portraying Nonviolence as an alternative path that could direct our people to finally recognize the urgent necessity for a change in attitude. It consoles my soul to learn that, at least our kidnapping has been an instrument to shake public opinion and to maintain national interest focused on the misfortune of thousands of hostages (particularly victims in the military) as they themselves claim: “it seems that FF.AA. (Armed Forces) and Colombians have never before shown a genuine interest in mending the situation that demoralizes the country they so proudly defend.”
I am conscious that the consequences of my actions affect others besides me. It must be a tough situation for you and mother, as well as heartbreaking for the rest of the family, my wife, and not to mention the kids Mateo and Danny. Perhaps this is the true reason that stopped me from writing to you previously. A devastating feeling of guilt overwhelms my spirit every time I think of how much you must be worrying and suffering because of me. Please father, be so kind to forgive me for not taking you into consideration and for making you undergo such horrifying moments; I think indeed I should ask not just you, but everybody else to forgive me too.
On the other hand, what is then the correct way for a governor in Colombia to lead his people if his beliefs lean towards Nonviolence? Should he then continuously avoid dangerous situations for the sake of safeguarding his family from pain and suffering? How does he reach a balance between his own safety and the inevitable risks that accompany being governor in Colombia today? Could he pursue the path to Nonviolence without getting himself involved with the various forms of violence that surround every corner of this country? How could he face injustices and attempt to dismantle them and overcome them when he is constantly and mostly worried about his own safety? Is not that fort, ironically, the one we build around governors in order to protect them, that makes it impossible for them to see the reality in which their people struggle everyday? There are so many questions, yet so few answers, and unfortunately, these answers are not very hopeful for the short run.
As time passes, my confidence about the benefits of spreading and promoting nonviolence in Antioquia grows stronger. It is not about using Nonviolence as a tool to try to transform FARC-EP attitude. Before we can aim that high, it is absolutely necessary for the people of Antioquia to familiarize themselves with the concept of Nonviolence and to adopt it, to the best of their abilities, as their own. We need Nonviolence as a society to overcome our mistakes and transform the cruel reality suffered by so many in Antioquia. Here I have pondered about what kind of message I could offer as a leader and I came to the conclusion that the only message I want and can give is about the transforming power of Nonviolence, its tremendous capacity to bring the best out of human beings, even in the worse of the circumstances. Let’s empower ourselves to begin building consciousness. Let’s make a commitment to work for a more just and peaceful country, without a need to resort to the conventional use of brute force. Violence due to ignorance or misconceptions is embedded in many of our traditions and education system in Colombia. Our average leaders and government officials have commonly portrayed hypocrisy as a strategy for success. It seems to me that today’s politics in Colombia have as a motto “ the end justifies the means.” This scheme is no longer valid or acceptable to me. Yes, we wish for a noble cause, we want to consolidate it and we want a true social transformation to last. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of us governors to be cautious of the means.
Our task is, if we hope for a new Antioquia, to open the doors to all the possibilities that Nonviolence offers and to incorporate them in the different segments of community life: family, education, relationships among people, communities and nations, overcoming poverty and inequalities, to be able to build a new nation based on human principles. I am a true believer in the potential of Nonviolence to transform behaviors and attitudes, which will help us create new forms of politics and new models for social solutions. I feel that we cannot continue justifying violence as inevitable and accepting it as routine. Nonviolence, as Mario Lopez has stated “…allows us to view human beings as talented creatures not limited in nature; capable of achieving the highest ideals and finding the best solutions.” These thoughts almost replicate word by word what I proposed during my campaign for governor. Now is the moment of truth to prove it to my people by setting an example, and that is precisely what I have been doing by means of suffering firsthand the undeserved torture that horrifies all of Colombia’s people: kidnappings.
End of part 1. Continue below for part 2
[Published as Editorial in El Mundo (Medellín, Colombia), May 11, 2003]
Translation by Tatiana Maurin
Center for Global Nonviolence