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gabriel.jpgRSS Gabriel Ángel

Gabriel Ángel is writer and guerrilla fighter of the FARC-EP
Thursday, 03 August 2017 00:00

Another challenge of peace

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During the pedagogical talks about the Havana Agreements that I give in the mornings in the Local Transitional Zone, 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 shyness revealing tone of voice, 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 seemed to not only annoy him but also caused him to be sort of ashamed. He spoke himself with a considerable amount of work, and every sentence he completed must have seemed like 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 his 27 years in the FARC. His misfortune occurred in July 2012, when they bombed the unit to which he belonged to, 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 after the bombing. 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 ear, while in his other ear, if anything he heard some slight hum.

He had also completely lost his speech, he could not utter a single syllable. It was over after a year later that he was able to 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 condition tortured him, 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, they 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 if all this was not enough, he completely lost the mobility of 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 others work on the various tasks. In a medical exam that was done to him a year ago, they detected three serious brain injuries as a result of the bombs.

It was not the splinters that caused this to him, it was the effects of the detonations that had thrown him away a considerable distance that had caused this damage. The doctors recommended another medical exam a year later to observe its evolution. That's what he wants to talk about, for him to be sent out in order to have the doctors perform a new medical 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 disabled war veteran of the FARC-EP. I feel a chill, there are many others in the same or worse situation than he is.

A real challenge.

Last modified on Thursday, 03 August 2017 14:46