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Question: What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible? CPNN article: Colombian villagers practice non-violent resistance
CPNN Administrator
Posted: Nov. 10 2001,02:34

This discussion question applies to the following articles:

Colombian villagers practice non-violent resistance
Legacy of a Nonviolent Political Leader: Governor Guillermo Gaviria of Colombia
Working for a Culture of Peace in the Valley of the Cauca, Colombia
Remise des Prix de la Fondation Chirac pour la prévention des conflits
Chirac Foundation Prize for Conflict Prevention
The University and the Peace Process in Colombia
La paz supera coyunturas y fronteras (Colombia y Venezuela)
Peace is not stopped by borders (Colombia and Venezuela)
Campesinos colombianos celebran primer acuerdo agrario de paz
Colombian Govt and FARC Reach Agreement on First Stage of Peace Talks
Colombia Campaña de la ONU “La Paz es mía”
UN Campaign in Colombia:
Presidente colombiano reactivará la Comisión Nacional de Paz
Colombian President to Reactivate National Peace Commission
FARC-EP y Gobierno colombiano avanzan en acuerdos para la paz
FARC-EP and Colombia Government advance in their peace accords
Colombia debe ser también la Nación más educada en derechos humanos: Presidente Santos
Colombia should also be the most educated nation in human rights : President Santos
Gabriel García Márquez and the peace process in Colombia
Colombia amanece con un presidente reelecto, esperanzada en la paz
Colombia awakens to hopes for peace with the re-election of their president
Mujer, ruralidad y memoria, entre los temas del congreso de paz (Bogotá, Colombia)
Women, rurality and historical memory among the themes of the Peace Congress (Bogotá, Colombia)

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CPNN Administrator
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:

Dear Father:

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
Honolulu, Hawai'i
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CPNN Administrator
Posted: Aug. 21 2003,05:17

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, of which this is the second.

Corrected translation July 7, 2003

Last letter from Governor Gaviria to his Father

Mountains of Colombia
January 2, 2003

Part 2 of 2 parts:

In any case, beloved father, these are some of the explanations I wanted to share with you. Please forgive the melodrama and now allow me to continue with other matters.  

I have heard about the progress in VIVA and I think it is time for your Housing Plan to become the accelerator in the economy that the nation so desperately needs. The departure of Josue to Bogota is going to be tough for us in Antioquia, but if he is going with the ambition to make “Plan Gaviria” a reality, I think the sacrifice will be worth it and eventually he could help us secure our tryout project VIVA. I would like to know what you think of the Housing Department’s latest developments.

I know that the new law has not yet been approved, but I am confident that it will be. The critical necessity for employment will also be a stimulation for the national government to support our project. I hope that all these circumstances will allow “Plan Gaviria” to finally take place after forty years since conceived by you. I consider the plan to be three reforms in one; social, because it will take care of housing and employment necessities for about five million families; economic, because it creates a new economic structure and it gives a strong push to the economic development; and urban, because it allows us to structure the growth of our cities and countryside.

Regarding the Food and Nourishment Initiative, our program already attends to more than 55,000 children from sectors 1 and 2 that were previously not participating in any other programs. I wanted to reach 100,000 children by 2002, but we are just starting and we came to realize that the program has a much more complex structure than the Milk Program. In one other area where your support is very clear is the participation of  Colanta. I am thankful and glad at the same time because this will help to consolidate the social balance of Colanta, transforming it into an excellent supporter of the social progress of Antioquia by transcending the field of the milk producer communities to cover the whole territory. A million thanks from all the people of Antioquia. Thanks to you and thanks to the Directive Assembly and Genaro for this contribution; which I am sure will continue to grow accordingly with the program.

In conclusion, I am pleased that in spite of my absence, the main programs are still carrying on, especially these two which constitute my most important aspiration, since the third one has another component, Anibal, that makes me feel confident.

Being here, in the midst of simplicity and routine, can teach so much to a human being as long as he is willing to learn. Jokingly, sometimes we think of ourselves as graduate students mastering in various subjects. One area being tolerance and adaptability to the most ascetic ways of living; another area being nutrition, since we have been able to test how much we can reduce our diets without affecting the good functioning of our bodies, and I remembered how much you love rice. Here I have learned to value it and now I consider it a true delicacy.  When they give us rice I sometimes do not eat it all, so I save it in a little container for the next meal (I do the same thing with the arepas [traditional pastries] which can last up to a few days this way). I could do an extended study about flora and fauna here, but for that I would need a great expert such as Tone. So far what I have been able to enjoy and learn about flora has not been much, I have not even seen that many orchids around yet. In this way I could go on and on about an infinite number of small areas of studies, in such case, I do not feel I am totally wasting my time here. I also teach English to the officers and noncommissioned officers and with some difficulties, but with the dictionary’s help I am trying to improve my orthography  (I am sure you notice how far from success I remain).

Beloved father, it would be a great joy for me to hear your voice again or at least receive some news from you. There are a few radio broadcasts (La Carrilera at 5 a.m.-RCN and Las Voces del Secuestro-Caracol), which receive written messages (fax or e-mail) to air for hostages to listen to.

I do not expect you to do it often, but it would certainly make me very happy to listen to you from time to time. If you believe it would not be appropriate I will surely understand. In that case, Yolanda could forward some information about the latest developments in your battles.

I heard from Yolanda that she showed you the newspaper’s article. Please do not be too judgmental. My goal was never to come up with a literature masterpiece, but only an attempt to fill the emptiness of our separation. I hope it will help you to better understand how our lives go on here and to calm everybody down about possible threats that may affect us. Father, I have tried to write something that could be of use for an official article, but I have not come up with anything satisfactory at the moment. I will continue my efforts, but for the time being do not hold too high of expectations. For obvious reasons, in previous letters I have not covered in detail my opinion of current controversial affairs. Now I think the conditions are more suitable; therefore, I can write with less apprehension.

In the newspapers I have received I had a chance to read about you. It comforts me to know that your strength is still intact. I also found out about Anibal’s trip and his persistent agenda of negotiations seeking my liberation. I am sure that his unrelenting work is being highly fruitful and that it would probably lead to some interesting projects for the future. My recognition to you father, because I am sure that all his work has been possible thanks, in great part, to your immense support.

The FARC-EP has a much slower pace when dealing with things than what us citizens and governors are used to. It is likely that our captivity could extend even more, and I do not wish for your frustration. It is better in that case to be already prepared for an even longer separation and for the possibility of losing the communication privileges that Gilberto and I have been enjoying up until now, even though there is no particular reason to make me think that a complication could occur in the near future.

Whatever the case may be dear father, what I wanted to express with this letter is that everything that I have accomplished so far was intended to be in accordance with the teachings I received from you and mother; all the mistakes are mine. I love you and think of you every day. I miss you greatly and you have no idea how much it hurts to realize the pain I have caused you. I hope you understand after reading this letter that I am fine and I want you to know that I will overcome absolutely anything necessary just to hug you once again.

With warmest regards from your son that loves and remembers you always,


[Published as Editorial in El Mundo (Medellín, Colombia), May 11, 2003]

Translation by Tatiana Maurin
Center for Global Nonviolence
Honolulu, Hawai'i
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Posted: Sep. 09 2003,14:54

The force of non-violence constrains the force of arms!

Colombia - the force of peaceful resistance -
At the beginning of July, the rebels of the armed revolutionary forces of Colombia (FARC) kidnapped a 51 year old Swiss, and his Colombian assistant who worked in the Indian communities of Cauca province where they were setting up development projects by building schools and community production enterprises.

The news of the kidnapping was spread through all the villages and 2000 Indians set out to pursue the 400 guerillas. They reached them at an elevation of over 4000 meters (12,000 feet), encircled them, and without any weapon, constrained them to release the 2 hostages! (After 2 days, the hostages were released).

This release, obtained through "peaceful resistance" has raised a national debate: the possibility of resisting violence without needing to use weapons has demonstrated the effectiveness of human solidarity movements.

"I will return, and I will then be millions" prophesied the Aymara Indian leader Tapak Katari, in 1781, at the time of his execution by the Spanish conquistadors.

100 million in 1492, the Indians were no more than 4,5 million one century and half later. Currently there are 44 million Indians populating Latin America.

In spite of their great diversity, the Indian movements take on more and more importance. In Ecuador, Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico or Colombie they are opposed to the neoliberal system that governs the Americas, while protesting against the imposition of the American economic market.  Their tactics are mainly debate, political action and solidarity, creation of multiple networks among all the indigenous peoples, previously isolated from each other.

The Indian organizations thus published a Joint Declaration, during the international meeting of Quito of October 2002, of which here a very short extract: ‘’.... what kind of integration do you speak about  - if ... your project is founded on competition, the desire to accumulate and the appetite for profit at any cost, injustice, contempt towards our people and our cultures, and will to force all to us into the mould of your market and your consumerism - if you do not respect the first and fundamental bond that binds every human being with our mother, the earth ? “

The claims take broad political dimensions, but the Indian movement remains founded on a vision of the world where the human being is the center of concern, within his ecological context. The relationship of man and the earth is essential;

By showing great capacity for organization, mobilization, and patience, the Colombian Indians have shown us that nonviolence is a tool we need to relearn. These are the people who have been despoiled, stolen, victims of genocide for more than five centuries and yet they are the activists of non-violence! Their weapons are courageous solidarity, psychological pressure, a new relationship with the other, a search for equality! And what energy there is in this quiet anger!

They are for me the symbol of a new world, a return to the values of respect for life, of the going beyond oneself in solidarity.  It reminds us that we do not know how to use our anger.

Bit by bit the culture of peace is advancing in our spirits, giving us a new way of looking at on the means of action. It is a process of germination, slow but sure. We must not lose confidence.

I have translated the text in italics from an article in Courrier International number 668 entitled Latin America: the Indians at the doors of power.

Kiki Chauvin, Paris
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