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The challenges of peace

During the pedagogical talks about the Havana Agreements that I give in the mornings in the Transitional Area I meet people and stories that strike me

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During the pedagogical talks about the Havana Agreements that I give in the mornings in the Transitional Area, I have always been struck by the concentration in the staring eyes that I have seen in one of the assistants, a man with copper skin and a certain indigenous aspect who almost always wears a white T-shirt, and who, I guess would be around the age of forty.

Many take the floor to ask a question or express their opinion on a certain issue, but he has never done so, only listens and if he participates in the voting of any matter submitted to the audience for consideration, he always does so by raising his left hand, which made me think he was left-handed. Today I learned about his true situation.

At about ten o’clock in the morning I found him standing at the door of my lodgings. He seemed to be waiting for me to appear. As I greeted him with courtesy, he answered in a voice revealing shyness, asking me if I could give him a few minutes to discuss a matter. I invited him to come in and sit on a chair, while I sat on another in front of him.

Once his story began, I realized that my initial impression about his shyness was due to a different reason. It was not that my presence intimidated him, but the fact that he had physical difficulties to speak, which at the time that annoyed him also seemed to cause some shame. His words were born with work and every sentence completed must have seemed a victory.

It was the first thing he explained to me, making an obvious effort to find the precise word each time. It had happened to him after an enemy attack. He was an old guerrilla, he joined in the ’90s, he had just celebrated 27 years in the FARC. His misfortune occurred in July 2012, when they bombed the unit to which he belonged to, on the 37th Front.

On that day Silvio, the commander of the Front, and another considerable number of his companions were killed. He was wounded and was captured unconscious by the Army that arrived later. He never knew what really happened. When he returned to consciousness, he was in a prison in Medellín, accused of a number of serious crimes.

He could only hear well from one ear, the left. In the other ear, if anything he heard some slight hum. And he had completely lost his speech, he could not utter a single syllable. It was over a year before he could articulate words again, like a child learning to do it. All this is no coincidence, he suffered a kind of amnesia.

The cassette had been completely erased, as he himself says. He did not remember anything, not even the name of things. He had come to occupy the fifth place in the direction of the Front, for which a good level was required. Now he could not read, much less write. He was forced to learn everything again, in the cell and yard of a prison.

His dumbness was one more torture, until he was able to make himself understood of others. Even now he does not remember many words and his tongue does not respond as he would like. From the Front, especially at the insistence of Mario, began a meticulous search, until they found his whereabouts in jail. Since then he has had a support in the midst of his strange new reality.

As all this was not enough, he completely lost the mobility in his right arm, which, since he could remember, simply hangs on his shoulder like an inert object. After a first year of prison, he was transferred to another jail, also in Medellín. He has difficulty remembering those names. At last it was possible to obtain house arrests for him. And a year later he returned to the Front.

The best advances in his memory have occurred since returning to the mountain, as he says. But there is very little he can do and help with. Most of the time he sits in his creek, watching the others work on the various tasks. In a TAC that he did a year ago, they detected three serious brain injuries as a result of the bombs.

It’s not about shrapnel, but about the effects of the detonations that had thrown him away. The doctors recommended another TAC a year later, to observe its evolution. That’s what he wants to talk about, that they send him out for the exam. He states that for no reason he will abandon the movement, it is his whole life, he will continue in the struggle.

That is why he rejects the proposals of his family to go and live with them. He is interested in knowing what will be of his future, what he will be able to do, what will be his situation as a war disabled. I feel a chill, there are many others in the same or worse situation than he.

A real challenge.

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