Colombian Political Exiles Demand Their Case to be Heard in the Peace Negotiations

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By: Eliécer Jiménez Julio / Source: Rebelión / The Dawn News / November 15, 2016

Photo credit: Revista Pueblos / Andrea Gago Menor

We interviewed Jorge Freytter Florián, member of “Colombian Politically Persecuted Constituents in Exile”. From Bilbao, Basque Country, this organization demanded the immediate implementation of the clause that creates commissions of truth for the crimes committed by paramilitaries in Colombia, to expose emblematic cases of political exile.

He also denounced that the rise of paramilitarism is the reason why the government of Colombia can’t guarantee enough security for its citizens to return, despite the peace agreements signed by President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC-EP.

Freytter Florián announced that next November 26, the political exiles will meet in Madrid, Spain, in order to prepare to cooperate with the implementation of the peace agreements that the government and the FARC will sign in Havana, and also prepare for the chance that they might be called to speak as victims of the State in the negotiations that the ELN is carrying out with the government in Quito, Ecuador.

We’re the exiled political victims of the persecution of Colombian state terrorism

Jorge Freytter Florián, son of university professor Jorge Freytter Romero, who was kidnapped by paramilitaries in 2001 and subsequently murdered, is one of the spokespeople of Colombian Politically Persecuted Constituents in Exile, a platform that was created in November 2014 in Bilbao, Basque Country, and which is made up of 150 organizations of exiles in Europe and Latin America.

He was recently in Havana, Cuba, along with 30 other victims, political and social leaders to support the peace agreement between the FARC and the Colombian government (which was later rejected by the vote in a plebiscite) and said that “the takeaway of the meeting with the FARC-EP delegation was very positive because we analyzed how to reach the masses that abstained from voting in the plebiscite and ask for an urgent meeting between Juan Manuel Santos and the organizations that supported the agreement, the victims and the exiles, before Santos goes to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo”.

Operation Europe, Persecution and Revictimization by the Colombian State in Exile

Freytter Florián explained that “the international presence of the Colombian Politically Persecuted Constituents in Exile was very important because we were able to explain and submit their dossier and their proposals to the negotiating table and the delegations, with guarantees for a safe return and our role in the implementation of the agreements, as well as denouncing the revictimization of exiles through Operation Europe, which is an international espionage scandal.

Regarding the return of the exiles, who are politically persecuted by the Colombian state, the leader said that “it’s a topic we’ll discuss in the near future because first we need safety, truth, justice, reparation and guarantees that this won’t happen again. We are political and social subjects that actively participate in the creation of peace and in solidarity with popular movements in Colombia”.

There are no Guarantees for a Safe Return, since Paramilitaries Keep on Killing in Colombia

According to Freytter Florián, there are no guarantees for exiles to return, because “the Colombian state doesn’t acknowledge the political nature of our exile as victims of State terrorism, and clearly the paramilitaries are still operating economically and militarily in all five regions of our country, and that’s an issue our government is unwilling to discuss, and what’s more, they keep revictimizing our population with internal displacements, persecution, murder of social leaders and of exiles who return. Therefore, we want to make a plan to return, which will be negotiated with the FARC-EP, the Colombian government and also the ELN, so that the political exiles are protected not only upon reentering the country but also wherever in the world they are. One of the proposals is that exiles who voluntarily return to Colombia don’t lose their status as exiles for a certain period of time, so that they can return if they find themselves persecuted again by the State and paramilitarism or don’t manage to find a place in the society they left a long time ago.”

The Colombian State must Commit to Tell the Truth on Persecution Against Political Exiles

The spokesperson of the exiles insisted upon shining a light on the debate surrounding the victims “because the Colombian government wants to pigeonhole all victims into the same category. And we want to highlight the fact that we’re victims of State terrorism and its minion, paramilitarism, and a blatant example of that fact in the international context is Operation Europe, which was a policy of ‘national security’ under the presidency of Álvaro Uribe Vélez that seeked to stigmatize, persecute, and discredit the Colombian political exiles who they couldn’t murder, in order to isolate them from the political sphere. They did this through judicial processes, incriminations, e-mail hacking, wiretapping phones, etc. They did this here in Europe and in other continents as well”.

That’s why our case is different, because the national and international media, encouraged by the government, focus exclusively on the victims of the insurgency, which is a very small number when compared to the victims of State terrorism, and they don’t even speak about political exile, therefore it’s important to have media report on this issue.

Political Exiles Should Have a Place in the Commissions for Truth and for the Uncovering of Paramilitarism

Freytter Florián remarked the importance of the role that can be played by the exiles in the implementation of the agreements, because among them are people with a great amount of knowledge about Colombian politics and geography, which are key to the future.

The exiles also want a seat in the Truth Commission and another in the Commission for the Uncovering of Paramilitarism, where they need to expose a series of emblematic cases of exiles to be studied and acknowledged. The commissions should already be set up and working, because that had been agreed upon in the Cartagena agreements, but the Colombian government still hasn’t taken the necessary steps to create them.

November 26: Meeting of “Colombian Politically Persecuted Constituents in Exile”

Next Saturday, November 26, teh “Colombian Politically Persecuted Constituents in Exile will hold an extraordinary meeting to design strategies and organize their participation in the implementation of the agreements, and demand a meeting with the peace committee and the Colombian government.

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