Wounds ‘too raw’ for Colombians to vote for Farc

Colombian human rights lawyer Sandra Rocha Kuan
Colombian human rights lawyer Sandra Rocha Kuan

A major terrorist group in Colombia with close ties to the IRA has secured less than 0.5% of the vote in its first national election due to the failure to take victims’ needs into account, it is claimed.

However, Farc – which did not change its name or leadership as it transformed into a political party – will still receive five seats in each of the two chambers of parliament as part of a government deal.

In 2001 Irish republicans Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and James Monaghan were arrested in Colombia for training the group in IRA terror techniques.

The year after a US Senate report said Farc used a new IRA-style mortar to kill 117 people, a third of whom were children, in an attack on a church in Bellavista where they had sought sanctuary from fighting.

In 2013 Conall McDevitt (SDLP), Conor Murphy (Sinn Fein), Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP) and unionist John McCallister travelled to South America to discuss conflict resolution with the terror group.

Human rights lawyer Sandra Rocha Kuan, who is of Colombian origin and now lives in Spain for her own personal safety, explained to the News Letter why Colombians rejected Farc at the polls.

“We must remember that the Farc are responsible for a long war in which they have caused more than 100,000 deaths since 1964, carrying out thousands of kidnappings, often torturing the kidnapped,” she said.

The group was responsible for a conflict, she said, which left a total of 25,007 disappeared, 16,340 selective murders, 1,982 massacres, 27,023 kidnappings, 1,754 victims of sexual violence and 6,421 forced recruitments.

“The wounds of the war with the Farc are still too open. Throughout the peace process much was said about forgiveness, but forgiving 50 years of aggression and violence is not easy”.

Farc commander Rodrigo Londono-Echeverry faced 186 judicial processes and sentences totalling 488 years in prison. However, as a result of a government deal he will now sit in Congress without passing through the Special Justice for Peace, an organ created to judge the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, she added.

“It is outrageous for the victims and the Colombian people.”

By contrast Farc’s victims have been gravely overlooked, she said, in terms of compensation, health services, counselling, education and housing.

“Farc have not told the whole truth, they have not made reparation to the victims, they have not been tried or condemned the crimes against humanity against thousands and thousands of Colombians.”