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Colombia Caravana blog #4

06 Sep 18 

Day 5 (Tuesday 4 September 2018)

Ya no tenemos miedo. We are no longer afraid. 

Day two of the victim interviews. Again at Eduardo’s cozy office, which is starting to feel a bit like home. In order to attend as much victims as possible today, we decided to split up in two teams: Wout and Gemma, and Christian and myself. Today was more crowded than the first round, since some of the victims were having troubles yesterday to travel to Cartagena and in the end were not able to make it then. A tiring but inspiring two hour session was the result. 

The most memorable moment for me was when at a certain point the office door was opened; the room went quiet and two elderly men strolled in. One eighty years old, the other close to 70. Both afrocolombian farmers from the northern rural area of Colombia. In a highly moving way, they calmly explained to us that years ago they were chased away from their houses and land. Property that had been owned by their family for more than two hundred years. For some time they refused to leave their farms but when the threats became structural and concrete, the men finally left, taking their wives and children with them. Approximately twenty other families suffered the same, but none of them ever dared to act against it. Now, years after the land retribution, the two men we interviewed decided to search for justice and reclaim what is legally and, even more important, emotionally theirs. Amazingly, their high age will not stand in their way. When asked by us if they feared for their lives due the fact that they will take their case to court in the near future, the oldest of the two farmers looked me straight in the eyes, and told me he wasn’t. Not anymore, he responded. I have no future to lose, only a past to regain. The second men, his brother, nodded his head decisively and agreed. Ya no tenemos miedo.

During lunch I had some difficulties to focus my attention on the upcoming meetings that day. The visit of the two men was just too overwhelming to mentally process and move on right away. To be really honest, the rest of the day my attention kept going back to Eduardo’s office. Until later that day, in the evening, when I spoke to Christian and Wout about their experiences of the day.

After lunch, while I visited a labour law judge with Gemma and Claudia, Wout and Christian were invited at the working office of Adil Melendez. There they got to meet his team, which consists of five young lawyers, between the age of 22 and 35. Adil is one of the most prominent human right lawyers in the Caribbean part of Colombia, but also one of the most threatened ones in his field of work. Illustrative for the risk he runs is the pamflet you see on the picture besides this blog. This pamflet is a deathlist. Adil’s name is on it. 

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