LATIN AMERICA

“Forgiveness is the pillar of peace,” says victim of FARC

Constanza Turbay, who lost family members to the guerrilla group, speaks about the peace process

Constanza Turbay (left) participated in peace talks with the FARC guerrilla group.
Constanza Turbay (left) participated in peace talks with the FARC guerrilla group.YAMIL LAGE / AFP

Constanza Turbay, a victim of the FARC group, recently traveled to Havana to participate in the peace talks between the Colombian government and representatives of the guerrilla organization.

Turbay, 57, who lost her mother and two brothers to the armed revolutionaries, was part of a total group of 60 victims who will fly to the Cuban capital to personally participate in negotiations that have become a cornerstone of Juan Manuel Santos’ mandate.

Following the first meeting on August 16, Turbay said that FARC’s chief negotiator, Iván Márquez, asked her for forgiveness.

Ever since my family was murdered, I have asked myself about the motives behind it”

“It was a heartfelt apology,” said Turbay, who lives in exile in Europe.

In an interview with EL PAÍS, this daughter and sister of liberal politicians said she hopes that the guerrilla group will reveal the truth behind the tragedies behind a total of 220,000 deaths, of which more than 80 percent were civilians, and 25,000 disappearances.

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Question. What did it mean to you to be selected among thousands of victims to participate in the peace talks?

Answer. It was an acknowledgment that not just my personal tragedy but that of the entire Caquetá Department [located in the Amazonas region] is still remembered. Besides my people, dozens of leaders of our political group were killed. Those facts evidenced the dishonor of the Colombian conflict and underscored the need to view Caquetá as an essential department in achieving peace with the FARC.

Q. How did it feel coming face to face with the people who caused you so much pain?

A. The meeting in Havana means a lot to me. Ever since my family was murdered, I have always asked myself about the motives behind it. My brother Rodrigo was kidnapped and accused of stealing contracts that had never been awarded. We spent nearly two years countering those perverse lies, one by one. Later, when my brother Diego was president of the Congressional Peace Committee, he was assassinated along with my mother and their five colleagues, who were all falsely accused of being paramilitaries. Their names never showed up, and never will, in any of the legal inquiries currently underway in Colombia into paramilitary activities. I always asked myself who was behind this monstrous fabrication, who benefited from it.

If we want a solid, consolidated peace, all victims must be a part of the solution”

Q. You said that Iván Márquez, FARC’s number two man, apologized to you for your relatives’ murders. What do you expect to see after that apology?

A. For the whole truth to be revealed, beginning with the people involved in my family’s extermination. Colombia deserves to know.

Q. Now that several days have elapsed since that meeting in Havana, what are your thoughts on the subject?

A. That forgiveness is a fundamental, determining pillar of peace, the kind of peace that I have yearned for constantly since my brother Rodrigo was abducted, the peace that, had it been secured 17 years ago, would have meant that my family would still be alive today.

Q. Why is it important for all victims, no matter who their executioners were, to have direct participation in the peace process?

A. If we want a solid, consolidated peace, all victims without exception must be a part of the solution to the conflict, and they must all have access to the benefits of the process. Let us hope that the pain of the past does not blur the hope for peace.

Q. Why did you decide to write a letter to the nation saying it is unfair of people to interpret your trip to Havana as “handing over your pain in exchange for a greeting”?

A. Because in Colombia there is still a great misconception about the process itself and about the role of victims in clearing up the facts and achieving reconciliation.

Q. How can the FARC’s apology be believable, if afterwards their actions include criticism of Clara Rojas, who was a hostage for six years? [A rebel soldier wrote a post on the guerrilla group’s official blog denying Rojas’ right to call herself a victim and questioning her account of her six-year captivity.]

A. A peace process is built with peaceful words and attitudes. We need to find all the things that unite us and reject those that divide us. The FARC made their position on Clara Rojas clear, and she in turn deserves to be taken into account.