Survivor of FARC’s Slaughter Believes Peace is Closer than Ever
By Dialogo June 19, 2009Bogotá, June 18 (EFE).- Today the only survivor of of the slaughter of the deputies committed by FARC two years ago, Sigifredo López, said that peace is “closer than ever” in Colombia, because the guerrillas need to find “a dignified exit” after 45 years of armed conflict. López was liberated last February, and offered his testimony about what had happened in that massacre, where eleven captive regional deputies were killed, and he was the only survivor. Today is the second anniversary of those events. "Despite the radical positions, peace is closer than ever. It is the duty of the next Colombian president to pursue it , whoever he will be, because the conditions are now ripe more than ever," stated the former deputy in an interview with EFE, in reference to the elections to be held next year in this country. "This senselessness in which we have been trapped for more than half a century cannot continue,” he remarked. López and other eleven deputies were kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on April 11, 2002 in the headquarters of the regional Legislative Power of Cali, capital of the south-western department of Valle del Cauca. Five years after the kidnapping, on that fatal June 18, 2007, López’s life was saved from the slaughter, because he had been punished and chained in an isolated place a few days before for raising his voice in an argument with another hostage. When Lopes was released on February 5, he stated that his eleven companions were killed by the FARC and not died in a rescue military operation, as the guerrillas claimed reporting the slaughter of June 28, 2007. An independent coroner team provided by the Organization of American States (OAS) participated in the investigation of the massacre upon the request of the Colombian government, and concluded that the deputies were shot at close range. Today is "a very distressing date,” but it must be commemorated so it is not forgotten," López told EFE. Similar were the statements of Ángela María Giraldo today, the sister of Francisco Javier Giraldo, one of the eleven assassinated deputies. She considers it important “not to forget" what happened two years ago in the jungle. She also demanded the FARC to "take responsibility for the crime and to ask for forgiveness." Therefore, between today and tomorrow demonstrations will be held in Cali and Bogotá, and a park will be inaugurated in each city as a memorial for the victims. In a press conference, Giraldo said that tomorrow the “clock of infamy” will be installed in Bogotá, and it will count the time elapsed since the FARC's occupation of Patascoy Hill (December 21, 1997) and will remain active until the last kidnapped individual is liberated. On that December 21, Corporal Pablo Emilio Moncayo and NCO José Libio Martínez were captured. They are two oldest hostages held by the guerrilla group. Currently, Sigifredo López is travelling through Colombia "praying" for the liberation of Moncayo, whose release was announced two months ago by the FARC, but the liberation has not yet taken place due to the conditions imposed by the rebels, as well as the government. "Peace is possible," remarked López while defending the controversial humanitarian exchange of kidnapped individuals. They are considered to be “exchangeable” for imprisoned guerrilla members. In his view, this would help to "gain the necessary trust and to start dialogue.” This measure has already been proposed by the FARC. With the unilateral liberation of a dozen of hostages in the last year and a half, “for the first time in three decades, the FARC have started to show that they need to find a dignified exit out of 45 year conflict," López stated. About his comeback to freedom after almost seven years of captivity, the former deputy admitted that he was “adapting very well, thanks to the love of his family.” López, who is planning to return to university teaching and to politics, is still suffering the consequences of captivity: "Sometimes I feel a lot of pressure and I would like to be more relaxed and to have a moment to think," he said.