Gustavo Petro: “The truth should not be a point of revenge”

Francisco de Roux, president of the Colombian Truth Commission, was embraced by President-elect Gustavo Petro during the presentation of the Commission’s final documentation in Bogotá on June 28. DANIEL MUÑOZ (AFP)

President-elect Gustavo Petro received this Tuesday in the center of Bogotá the documentation of the Truth Commission, which makes recommendations to the new government to end six decades of conflict in Colombia and accept the causes of the melee. Petro, who attended the act accompanied by Vice President-elect Francia Márquez, was applauded by the personality present at the Jorge Eliecer Gaitán Theater, where the documentation of the Commission was presented. Eventual President Iván Duque was immediately booed for leaving. “The approach to truth cannot be used as a space for revenge, as if it were an extension of weapons,” Petro told commissioners and victims at the event. The truth, he continued, must point to “reconciliation, Francoist and social coexistence”.

Petro described his plan’s trophy a week ago as a sign of the peace accord signed in 2016 between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the defunct FARC group. “There is hope for peace, for a great peace,” the president-elect said. A lasting peace means not only “ending certain conflicts so that new armed conflicts can begin, but also the disappearance of the use of weapons as a tool that denies the possibilities of agreement, as a tool of revenge”. Societies will always have conflict and disagreement, the next president added, “but conflict cannot equal murder, conflict must equal life.”

The day is symbolic of Petro for several reasons. On the one hand, because some of those who let him enter the second presidential term are the voters of the communities that have suffered the most from the armed conflict and who voted in 2016 for the referendum to adopt the agreement of peace. Petro was part of a peace process in the late 1980s, still a former member of the M-19 group, and later turned to politics.

But always because several of the recommendations of the truth commission which were delivered to Petro on Tuesday correspond to his government software, such as the emergence of a comprehensive agrarian reform, the respect of the political reform demanded by the agreement or the reform of police forces. , which violently suppressed social protests.

I receive the recommendations of the Truth Commission and I will follow them.

Even the last group from the furthest corner of Colombia will know and have these recommendations.

— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) June 28, 2022

“Someone said that violence begets history,” Petro said in his address at Teatro Colón. The expression comes from Karl Marx, the historian and philosopher who, at the end of the 19th century, saw in the revolution an opportunity to regulate the capitalist system, just as the violence of the French Revolution put an end to the monarchy. Without kidnapping, the revolutionary will of the Colombian group never brought about changes, only several cycles of violence.

“A collection of violence”, Petro called it. “How many peace processes have we signed in our Republican history and how many times have we returned to violence?” asked the president, who signed one of many peace processes signed in the 20th century. Violence, he added, is not in the genes, and the truth is not the guardian of revenge, but of reconciliation.

Petro recalled one of the controversies of the campaign when he spoke of a possible “pardon” for those convicted of various crimes at La Picota prison in Bogotá. “What follows in the background is the truth, and it depends on the victims and no one else in Colombia, it is the possibility of social forgiveness,” he said. “The possibility of another story”.

Next, Petro referred to the most famous exhibition in Colombia, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, a text that ends with the famous phrase “because the verses condemned to a hundred years of solitude have not had second chance on earth”. The president-elect named himself after one of the characters in the novel, Aureliano, when he was in the M-19 group. Petro said in his speech today that Colombia should talk about 200 years of loneliness, not 100 years: since Colombia’s independence from the Spanish colony, two centuries of successive wars.

“Generations of 200 years of loneliness have a second chance on earth,” Petro concluded optimistically, accepting the recommendations of the Truth Commission, which heard from some 30,000 people who lived through the melee.

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