Colombians at the United Nations: ‘No More Deaths!’

Gabriel Chávez, in front of the United Nations in New York City, reading a long list of Colombians who have been murdered. (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

Five presidential candidates have been murdered in Colombia’s history. More than 6 million people have been displaced by violence. Since 1984, 1,800 union leaders and human rights advocates have been killed, and 95 percent of the perpetrators have gone unpunished. The leftist Unión Patriótica party was obliterated after 3,500 of its members were assassinated. At least 3,400 youths have been slain to make believe they were guerrilla members, [a scandal] known as “false positives.”

“And [former president] Álvaro Uribe has not assumed his responsibility or served a day in jail,” said Sergio Angulo, a neurosurgeon from Colombia who stood in front of the United Nations (UN) building in Manhattan on Saturday to demand that the international organization observe the election in his country this year and protect the lives of opposition candidates. Some 45 people were present.

Angulo also remembered the murder of comedian Jaime Garzón by paramilitary groups [in 1999]. “That is why we demand respect for life and no more impunity,” he added.

Colombians at home and abroad will vote on Sunday, May 27, to elect their new president.

Cristina Cortés, an activist and artist who said that she defends the rights of indigenous people in Colombia and Latin America, criticized her country’s media for “twisting the truth to favor the political class.”

“Life is sacred, and leaders in Colombia are killing and destroying the country’s human and biological diversity,” said anthropologist Alcira Forero-Peña at the demonstration, where posters with images of some of the murdered leaders were displayed. These included [presidential candidates] Jorge Gaitán, Jaime Pardo-Leal, Alvaro Gómez-Hurtado, Carlos Pizarro, Luis Carlos Galán and Bernardo Jaramillo-Ossa.

According to press reports, paramilitary groups in Colombia have committed 8,902 selective murders, and guerrilla groups have committed 3,900. The Center for Historical Memory, part of the peace process, says that 220,000 people have been assassinated in Colombia.

Physicist Gabriel Chávez read the names of dozens of victims as demonstrators yelled “no more deaths” and “I did not bear children to send them to war.” College professor Carolina Chávez was in charge of reading the letter to be delivered to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, while writer Carlos Aguasaco, who served as moderator, said: “We believe in democracy, and we will defend life.”

Arturo Archila, a psychiatrist, spoke to the audience, who demanded a halt to murders in Colombia. (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

Psychiatrist Arturo Archila said that the UN’s intervention “must happen immediately” to prevent more deaths, and mentioned the assassination attempt perpetrated earlier this year against Gustavo Petro, the presidential candidate for the Colombia Humana party.

Dr. Freddy Castiblanco, the owner of bar Terraza 7, said that he defends immigrants and small businesses and is against “inequality and corruption.” He also condemned the murder of 89 community leaders in Colombia in the last few months.

Paola Ángel Mendoza said that Colombia is permanently in mourning “due to the many violent acts, such as the false positives (…). Everyday it saddens me to think of the mothers who lost their children in such a vile manner.”

Economist Jorge Sáenz asked what has been gained from so many deaths, adding that the election should go on free of fraud in order to “give Colombia a democratic opportunity.” Architect Diego Aguilera said that “there will be fraud in this election. Hopefully, no murders.”

Actor Ramiro Sandoval said that the objective of this demonstration was “to raise our voice for life, to have a chance to choose and be chosen and to prevent electoral fraud.”

Go to Queens Latino for video from the demonstration.

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