Senator Piedad Córdoba: Kidnapped by Paramilitaries


The next panelist, Senator Piedad Córdoba Ruiz, the highest-ranking Afro-Colombian congressperson, expressed appreciation for the many expressions of solidarity with her situation of having been kidnapped, which is not only her experience but that of many other people – more than 40-50 intellectuals and human rights leaders. She shared a document developed by women engaged in a peace walk, which identifies the injustices as being structural in nature, due to most of the wealth being concentrated in the hands of a few people, along with the nature of decisionmaking and the injustice of poverty. These are the factors contributing to the war; these are the concerns of the organizations that demand a negotiated solution to the conflict. Unfortunately the official proposals for peace result in a marginalization of civil society. Civil society should be a protagonist or active actor in peace building; instead it is only the victim.

Unfortunately, as Senator Córdoba pointed out, those who bear arms forget that civilians have rights, and they bomb non-combatants on the pretext of counter-insurgency. They see all civilians as potential enemies. They go after the displaced, seeing them as enemies; they impede their services and supplies; they destroy their schools and health centers. There should be some means of protection for displaced people. Overall, only through peace will there be viable means of protection. Human rights will be possible only when other political parties are not illegal. Senator Córdoba is working for a peace that is more than a lack of arms, but a peace that is not based in the extermination of the opposition. To work for peace is to work for the sovereignty of the people, dialog among everyone, disarming of illegal groups and the building of community among citizens. The drug issue should not be falsely imposed on the peace process. Drugs was not the original factor. Rather there needs to be confidence in the judicial system, recognizing that many are responsible for the bloodshed. The US has much to contribute, but not a single dollar more for war. Unite with the women of Colombia who are seeking a millennium with peace.

In response to a question about her the kidnapping, Senator Piedad Córdoba emphasized that others have been kidnapped by the same actors; it’s a common occurrence. The most important response is ethical action. Senator Córdoba emphasized that military forces allowed or participated in her kidnapping, for there was a huge popular mobilization, yet she was moved around Medellín for several days. Five people moved her around the city, and they would inform each military checkpoint as she went from one to another. She was subject to psychological torture, with the goal of getting her to speak in favor of the paramilitaries. But this has not happened, nor will it happen. She traveled 2 to 3 hours by helicopter, even though the military controls the national airspace. When she arrived at the headquarters of paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño, she found that her telephone calls had been taped, and she was viewed as an ambassador of the guerillas. How were they able to tape her phone calls? She has concluded that it was possible because the military operates hand-in-hand with the paramilitaries. The Ministry of Defense is informed prior to the massacres. For example, in Puerto Lleras even the human rights community was informed ahead of time. They denounced the massacre, writing to every government office, and they were assured that nothing would happen, but then there were 25 corpses. In the four months since she has been free from her kidnapping, Senator Córdoba has not been able to speak with the President. The State, which is a presumed creation of civil society, cannot permit this. Everyone knows where Carlos Castaño is. They give him all his rights, they go to talk with him.


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