Constanza Turbay Cote was one of eleven victims who travelled to Havana last week to speak before the peace negotiators. Her brother, a politician, was kidnapped by the FARC on June 15, 1995. Twenty-two months later, the FARC informed the family that he had drowned when he was being moved via the Caguán River.
Three years later, on December 29, 2000, her mother and her other brother were in a car driving between Doncello and Puerto Rico in Caquetá department when the FARC stopped the car and murdered them. It happened while the peace talks with the government of Andres Pastrana were taking place.
Former FARC leader, alias Raúl Reyes, said the family had ties to paramilitaries. (Which has not ever been proven.)
The FARC also stole by force the family’s farm in San Vicente del Caguán.
Constanza Turbay Cote said a FARC leader, alias Ivaán Márquez, approached her during a break, during last week’s victims’ forum in Havana, and he said, “About the FARC and your family, that was a big error. I am asking your forgiveness … Your brother was a great man.”
She said she felt his words came “from his heart.”
Oh, this gives much hope. Such hope. Here is to hoping. It feels amazing to think that the mere power of validating feelings can do something here.
Can validating each other’s feelings lead to peace?
Sixty victims in total have been selected to join the negotiations in Cuba over the next weeks. They were hand-picked by a commission of delegates from the United Nations, the Roman Catholic Church, and Colombia’s National University after a series of public forums. They will include not only victims of the FARC, but also of the paramilitaries and the state.
Yet, sadly, many who suffered at the hands of the FARC — kidnappings, forced displacements, disappearances, and attacks — feel that their voices are not being heard.
And soldiers held captive for more than a decade by the FARC were told they cannot participate at all.
“I acknowledge what you are feeling” seems to be what many victims want to hear. Isn’t that something everyone wants to hear?