Six FARC hostages to be freed Better reasons to worry about Venezuela
Dec 232008

Here is a translation from Friday’s column in El Tiempo by former Colombian Finance Minister Rudolf Hommes. He is part of a group calling itself “Citizens for Life” who have posted an online Christmas card in solidarity with the victims of the Colombian military’s extrajudicial executions. The card is at

We’re taking a few days off for the holiday, and judging from our website statistics, most of you have too. Posting will be infrequent for the rest of 2008.

Citizens for Life
By Rudolf Hommes

To judge by what stands out in the media, nothing other than money – like in the case of the pyramid schemes – or Uribe’s reelection seems to move the country. Cases keep appearing of murdered civilians who are classified as “false positives.” They kill the husband of an indigenous leader at 4:00 in the morning, when he is going to pick her up [at the airport after a trip to Geneva], and the discussion is limited to whether the civilian justice system, the UN or another authority should investigate the crime. The majority of our fellow citizens don’t seem concerned that Colombians, especially those with low incomes, young people in the large cities’ slums, union leaders, indigenous and campesino leaders cannot travel freely without fear of being killed, of being treated like suspects who tried to escape, or of having their bodies end up disguised, post mortem, as those of guerrillas.

The worst aspect of these repeated “false positives,” crimes that don’t even have anything to do with war and are committed with the purpose of inflating statistics that intend to measure the performance of those carrying out a security policy, is that the people who perpetrate those crimes feel supported by the bureaucracy, or even authorized by their superiors to carry them out. And in any case, society doesn’t pay much attention to these acts, even though they are an attack on society and against our youth. This situation is very similar to that described by the philosopher Hannah Arendt in her writings, particularly in her article about Eichmann’s trial in Israel, which caused the concept of the “banality of evil” to be popularized. It illustrates how common citizens, who in everything else follow laws and fear God and the State, are willing to commit acts of cruelty against other human beings, without pangs of conscience, when they believe that these acts have the support of a respected institution.

The publication of these articles coincided with a moving report in El Espectador about the mothers of the young men in Soacha who were killed so that their deaths could be registered as “false positives,” and the appearance in this daily of an article by Antanas Mockus [two-time mayor of Bogotá], who expressed alarm about the “undignified and unrestricted conversion of human beings into instruments to improve some statistics.” Mockus is concerned that, “as in times of German Fascism, human beings reduce other human beings to primary material for their will,” and this happens when society suffers from anomie, which is a “social situation that is produced when society inculcates (and celebrates) the achievement of results, without inculcating (or defending) at the same time respect for limits over the measures employed in the achievement of these results.”

At the end of the article, Mockus invites his readers to join together and act in support of life. He, Claudia López and I resolved to follow this recommendation and conceived the idea of publishing a Christmas card illustrated with a powerful photograph of Óscar Pérez – which eloquently expressed the pain of the mothers of Soacha and the dimension of the tragedy – to be massively distributed through different media. It invites readers to reflect on this situation during this Christmas, and to join in solidarity with the victims of this form of violence.

The response that this initiative has received has been very encouraging. It now counts with the support of numerous people of very diverse professional and political origins, among them distinguished columnists from this and other dailies, who have spontaneously congregated as Citizens for Life. Many of them had not fully realized the seriousness of what has been happening until we communicated the idea to them, and they reacted. The card is being distributed now through several media, and I hope that it might contribute to defeating indifference, so that the majority of Colombians might be Citizens for Life.

10 Responses to “Rudolf Hommes: “Citizens for Life””

  1. Marcos Says:

    I wonder if this campaign will outlast this administration even if the phenomenon most certainly will continue, just like it didn’t begin in 2002.

    Of course, you’d never know that, going by how the problem is usually described at this time.

    It’s so hypocritical that all we are supposed to campaign against are “false positives” and kidnappings, when either of those are just the tips of their respective icebergs.

    Not just because both FARC and the military have other crimes to answer for, but because there’s a lot of violence in Colombia that can’t be attributed to either, much less to whoever happens to be President.

    But I guess people are allowed to play politics with these issues as long as reality doesn’t slap them in the face.

    So yeah….carry on.



  2. Chris Says:

    I don’t get it… why can’t you work over the holidays? Where’s your work ethic?…

  3. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Hey Chris! that was mean :lol:

  4. Chris Says:

    Check this out… is this the beginning of a renewed legitimacy campaign by the FARC?

  5. anonymous Says:

    wondered why this isn’t front and center discussion here:

    Publicado el viernes 19 de diciembre del 2008

    Grabación revela presunto nexo de los Santos con los paramilitares

    El Nuevo Herald

    maybe our erudite and learned right wing visitors would care to, oh I don’t know, spin this one more mole on their allies among Colombia’s thoroughly corrupt politicians


  6. Adam Isacson Says:

    Chris: Only 85 visitors yesterday, surely fewer today (Christmas). That’s why!

    Have a happy holiday, everyone.

  7. Santiago García Says:

    Gustavo Petro offered political asylum to Mancuso? Shocking! :D

  8. Marcos Says:

    No, of course that part isn’t true, nor other parts below in the article…you see, only the parts that benefit the left are true, everything else is false, false, false, Uribe, Uribe, Uribe!

    That’s what Mr. Anonymous thinks I bet.



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  10. Richard H Says:


    On you first point the reason I think that the extrajudicial executions are only now getting so much attention is that there has been such a massive increase in cases in recent years. I think the figure is 67% more in the past five years compared to the five year period before that.

    The reasons for this are more complicated – the military taking on some of the ‘jobs’ that the paramilitaries used to do, pressure from above the ’show results’, financial and other bonuses for killing a ‘guerrilla’, etc, etc.

    The important point is why the Colombian Government allowed this to go on for so long. Why so few of the perpetrators have been punished and why the executions are continuing at the current time. This all just reeks of a lack of political will – or, to put it more harshly, a lack of concern on the part of the Government.

    It wasn’t until November, when the UN accused the Colombian Army of “systematic and widespread” murders of civilians, that anything was done and, even then, it was not much more than PR: The day the UN Commissioner arrives a few military officers are fired. But where is the justice in that? Those military officers, and the hundreds of others implicated in the killings, need to be put on trial.

    Don’t hold your breath for that to happen under Uribe.

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