Two stories that struck me today:
René Bonilla is a Colombian who has been living in Spain for 7 years and has been working hard as a painter to bring his wife and 2-year old daughter from Colombia to Madrid. The New York Times told his story. He was doing well, earning 1100 euro a month and felt confident enough to bring his family to Spain.
When his wife and daughter arrived, René had been out of work for a month already. He had spent his savings on the journey of the three of them.
Now they are living in one room with one bed, which also serves as a dinner table and a place to watch television. They are surviving on loans from their landlord.
Wilson Bueno Largo is an other Colombian. He had been in the FARC for ten years and had been known as Isaza until he decided to escape and bring with him Oscar Lizcano, who had been a hostage of the FARC for about eight years. The government awarded him.
He was permitted to go to France, with his girlfriend, also a former FARC-member, and gave him about 350,000 euro for saving Lizcano’s life. Moreover, Bueno will receive a 800 euro a month allowance while living in France and will be helped to start a new life there.
We don’t know what crimes Bueno has committed during his ten years in the FARC. He did a great thing though, saving Lizcano.
But the comparison of his story and that of René is heart breaking. It is just not fair and it seems a repetition of mistakes made earlier.
While there’s hundreds of thousands of Colombians in the U.S. and in Spain struggling to provide a better life for their children, it is the ‘sapos’, the snitching drug traffickers, the demobilized members of the AUC and the guerrillas that are getting away.
It is understandable the government is desperate to end the seemingly endless violent conflict that’s been ruining so many Colombian lives, but what happened to justice?
Obviously it is René’s personal responsibility to provide for his family, but isn’t it also Wilson’s responsibility to face justice?
Or is the Colombian Government trying to temporarily sell the success of demobilization at the cost of real peace and is it willing to bribe those who have corrupted the country so that they will please stop being criminals?
Perhaps Colombia’s president Álvaro Uribe will reach the freedom of more hostages who are in FARC camps, but he will not reach the end of the illegal groups – be it guerrilla or new paramilitaries – in Colombia, because crime sells. He won’t even prevent that more people will be kidnapped.
Mr. Uribe was furious because the Liberal politician Piedad Córdoba and a group of intellectuals are trying to negotiate with the FARC to liberate more hostages and bring a political solution to the country’s war. I welcome their initiative and hope very much it will be fruitful.
I also hope that René will get over his terrible crisis.
This is a column which was published in Colombia Reports, December 10 2008