Colombia: official apology for ‘political genocide’

In a public ceremony in Bogotá, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos asked forgiveness for the state's role in the systematic killings of leftist activists in the 1980s. The ceremony at the presidential palace Sept. 15 was attended by surviving members of the Patriotic Union, some wearing shirts in the yellow colors of the recently reorganized party, with the slogan "They can cut the flowers, but they can't stop the birth of spring." Some 3,000 members of the short-lived political party were slain by right-wing paramilitary forces in what has been termed a "political genocide." Said Santos in his remarks at the ceremony: "This tragedy should have never occurred. The persecution of members of the Patriotic Union was a tragedy that led to its disappearance as an organization and caused untold damage to thousands of families and our democracy." (AP, Sept. 16)

In another reckoning with past repression, Colombia's top administrative court, the Council of the State, on Sept. 14 ruled that the state was responsible for the 1999 murder of Jaime Garzón, one of the country's most popular political satirists at the time. While Garzón was murdered by assassins belonging to the now-disbanded AUC paramilitary network, they were enabled in the crime by the active collaboration of a former army colonel and the DAS intelligence agency, also now defunct. Col. Jorge Eliecer Plazas was arrested in 2014 for playing a key role in the planning and execution of the killing. Former DAS sub-director José Miguel Narvaez is currently on trial after being accused of having urged AUC chief Carlos Castaño to carry out the killing. (Colombia Reports, Knight Center, Sept. 16)