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“They want to put their hand to the seats of peace” | DietDF

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Luis Herlindo Mendieta, traditionally retired from the Police and who was kidnapped by the then FARC guerrilla for more than 11 years, warns about the “very high” risk that organized armed groups want to seize the seats of peace. “They are going to influence,” he warns.

Jesús Antonio Rojas Serrano

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From next year, the Congress of the Republic will have 16 more seats, to be held by the victims of the war in Colombia. And according to the traditional retired of the Police and who was kidnapped for more than 11 years by the then FARC guerrilla, Luis Herlindo Mendieta, there is a “very high” risk that organized armed groups want to seize those seats.

The retired officer was in Neiva and spoke with LA NACIÓN. He also spoke of his aspiration to the Senate of the Republic.

The election of the peace seats is a reality today in the country, what opinion do you have of these seats for the victims in Congress?

For four years, we did a job in the Congress of the Republic with the so-called ‘fleet-observe’, and there, With Herbin Hoyos Medina – may he rest in peace – we intervened seeking to regulate those 16 seats because, from our thinking, we were aware of the incidence that armed groups were going to influence candidates and voters, leaving out more than 90% of the victims. At that time the project collapsed, but with the decision of the Constitutional Court and the Council of State in recent months to revive the seats, we have asked that the members of the Force reserve be taken into account, first of all. Public as the other party to the conflict to be assigned seats as well as seats were assigned to the Farc. Due to victimizing acts, those affected by kidnapping, anti-personnel mines, forced displacement and disappearances must be taken into account. Also the members of the Public Force who were affected by the conflict and who should have their representative. Unfortunately, we were not taken into account. For this reason, we presented a protection action before the Administrative Court of Antioquia and of which, we are pending its decision. We are requesting a national constituency, that is to say that the 10 million victims can participate in the election of the peace seats.

Do you think that today the risk of that illegally armed groups and drug trafficking gangs can remain with the peace seats?

They are going to influence. The risk is very high that organized armed groups, especially those dedicated to drug trafficking, illegal mining, kidnapping and extortion, want to reach out to select those who are going to participate and for those who decide to be elected. They will want to select people from the same population and press for their election.

General Mendieta, five years after the peace agreement with the FARC, what do you still think of that pact? How have you seen its implementation?

That the FARC have been the beneficiaries who received all kinds of privileges, if we take into account the 10 seats in the Congress of the Republic, magistrate in the National Electoral Council, political party with legal status, budget of billions of pesos per year so that they can do politics, National Protection Unit where almost 70% of its members are demobilized from the Farc, budget royalties, international aid directed to them; while the victims that the Farc caused have been totally excluded from any participation. To this add the interference they had in the election of the members of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the Truth Commission and the Unit for the Search for Disappeared. A whole system was created for the benefit of the perpetrators. That is the traditional balance that I can make of the peace process, in which the FARC have been the ones that have received all kinds of benefits. The victimizer was awarded and not the victim.

Have you seen repentance in the former members of the Farc?

From my point of view, I see them as sociopaths, war criminals, criminals against humanity, who make fun of the victims. Every so often they come out with words like ‘maybe, maybe’, that they were going to repair the victims with brooms and rags, and lately, making toasts in tributes to criminals and with phrases that the hostages were in good condition, when we were there it was in concentration cages and subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. They tried to dehumanize us with the experiences we had, even our colleagues died, if we take the example of our colleague Julián Ernesto Guevara, who died because he was not given medical attention or adequate food; Luis Hernando Peña Bonilla, a police mayor who was taken from the cages because he had psychological problems and was – we understand – shot by alias ‘Sombra’. And there are more facts: the case of the former Governor of Antioquia, the former Minister of Defense and the soldiers who died there, the deputies of Valle del Cauca, Colonel Edgar Yesid Duarte, Major Elkin Hernández, Sergeant Moreno, Sergeant Martinez. There were executions of kidnapped by the Farc. And what we see today is that they do not show any degree of repentance because in their mind it is that they were good acts. From our point of view, they were war crimes, crimes against humanity, unforgivable crimes, seriously affecting international humanitarian law. Hopefully, international justice will reach them at some point.

One of the biggest claims made by the victims is the truth, why do you think that the FARC have delayed so much to tell the truth about many of the acts they committed?

At the time the peace process began, there were more than 700 kidnapped, of which it was requested information and never, to date, have told what happened to them. Their relatives have been constantly demanding that they say what happened to their loved ones. Here the determinants of this felony structure of the Farc do not want to give information because it does not suit them. An example is alias ‘Sombra’, who in his versions has never wanted to say what happened to our colleague Luis Hernando Peña Bonilla; He has limited himself to saying that he gave it to alias ‘Mono Jojoy’. And these criminals who are in Congress today try to evade their responsibility by assigning it to middle managers, when they were the ones who made the main decisions to build those concentration cages. The politicians who were in the power of the Farc have also wanted to know why they were kidnapped, who gave the orders, and there has been no information. Nor have they provided information on the drug trafficking routes and the thousands of hectares of land that they took from many people.

General Mendieta, are they, then, the former commanders Are the guerrillas who do not want to contribute to the truth?

In the high command they do not want to make the decision to tell the truth because, surely, it is not in their interest to know in the country. They want to pass as political leaders and not as criminals. Unfortunately, the members of the Farc have been privileged with judicial benefits so that they do not face criminal responsibility. They receive the privileges and enter to justify their actions. So, they have not really contributed, justice will not be applied to them and in matters of non-repetition, they continue with an armed wing that is currently committing crimes in different parts of the country.

Do you see far that the former members of the Farc go to repair their victims?

Until now they have not wanted to deliver the goods. We know that they have many assets. While in the concentration cages, it was said that alias ‘Mono Jojoy’ made notaries go so that landowners could give them the titles of many lands. Where are those lands? I have information on people from whom thousands and thousands of hectares with crops and livestock were expropriated.

General Mendieta, you have said that it could take generations for people to speak of a reconciliation, why do you say that?

Theorists, especially from Europe, and those who guided the peace process, spoke that, first, it was necessary to make a peace process and later, make peace between the sectors that were involved in the conflict, but here only the government of President Santos made peace with the FARC and the victims were not taken into account. Here the sector of the victims has been totally excluded. Those same theorists say that due to the consequences or wounds that remain open, it is very difficult to reconcile those who were protagonists of the same conflict. They also say that when there is no open heart, it is impossible to build peace in the future and to open a reconciliation process. Hopefully, times would be shortened for our children and grandchildren to give them a country in peace. The FARC, with its dissidents, are opening many more wounds and intensifying the conflict and aggravating the situation in the country.

You spent more than 11 years kidnapped, do you consider that you were able to overcome all that ‘ordeal’ that you endured?

All the crimes that were committed against us are imprescriptible from the point of view of the international justice and, from our point of view, unforgivable for the physical and mental consequences that they leave not only in the person affected by the crime but in their acquainted environment. In the innermost case, the FARC damaged our lives and those of our families for almost 12 years and in the future because of the exclusion from the same society. For our relatives, it has been difficult to overcome things and for them to take them into account in study, work and commercial possibilities.

General Mendieta, why do you want to be Senator of the Republic?

10 members of the Farc arrived with seats given to the Congress of the Republic and now, it is possible that they have the largest number of seats of peace, that is, from there war criminals are going to legislate and all Colombians are going to have to obey the laws that those war criminals impose on us. And since I do not agree, we are doing a political exercise to try to reach the Senate of the Republic and seek a balance point so that it is not the perpetrators who are legislating. The purpose is that there be a representation of the victims that they caused and that they can also counterbalance them.

In these tours of the country, including Huila, what did you Have you said about your aspiration?

In response to invitations, especially from merchants, businessmen, industrialists, retired from the Public Force and victims, we have expressed these concerns that are due to a whole idea we had with Herbin Hoyos Medina, who unfortunately died. As a tribute to the legacy Herbin left us, we have taken up that flag to continue working for the benefit of these sectors. The reception has been good and we will continue in this political struggle to reach Congress and confront those criminals.

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