He then invited us to the chapel, which he described as the most important place of his humble inn, where everyone, holding hands and eyes closed as he nobly proposed, listened to his words of peace, faith in the future and blessings for Colombia, ending the brief ritual with the general Our Father prayer in a gesture of reconciliation and forgiveness.
A bit later we would board the armored vehicles and buses with which the security mechanism of the national police guaranteed our mobility. We had lived there for three days with them, and even experienced something unthinkable until then. None of us was on guard duty during the night; we all slept calm and confident under their sole custody.
From our very departure from Havana to the Guerilla Conference and then to Cartagena, we were in constant contact with staff of the official armed forces. I must say that never, not even on the slightest occasion, anyone of us received a rude or indifferent treatment. Kindness, even fraternity, was always the dominant spirit.
I never held long conversations with any of them, but generals, colonels, captains, sub-officials and troops were always very kind. At the airport in La Macarena, an Army colonel told me the story on how they had entered the jungle in the Plan Patriota after us, and confessed in a friendly tone that I was on the list of his targets.
A police captain that was also there, waiting for the flight, offered us a light snack, I jokingly asked him if he no longer cared about our dead bodies. With a modest smile he spontaneously responded that he didn’t, that things had changed a lot, and to them in particular, more or less since 2012, that way of thinking had been removed from their thoughts.
I must say that all that, as a whole, says a lot about a new reality in the country. Military, police and guerrillas could not only talk to each other, but discover each other in their human condition, see each other as people who don't have to hate and kill one another. Not to mention the civilians, men and women with whom we interacted, and who always expressed their admiration.
I saw the families of some comrades, who traveled from the far ends of the country, to have the opportunity to see and hug their loved ones who they hadn’t seen for years, and for whom they even brought foods, prepared by moms with affection, so that their children or siblings had a chance to taste them again.
A guerrilla member who had returned to Colombia told me that during the trips and stops made by the helicopter, dropping off ones or others, she was talking to a captain, and that she still remembered the regretful tone in which he asked her not to return to the jungle. He had acknowledged what kind of people he was chasing to kill, and he didn’t want to do it again.
Personally I believe that at the Havana peace process, parallel to the agreement, Colombians have come to know and discover each other. The myth of the criminal and ruthless guerrilla has been quickly crumbling in the eyes of many compatriots who had always believed in the versions given by its authentic enemies.
I am absolutely convinced that the total amount of YES votes belongs to people who learned about the importance of peace and reconciliation for the country, who have understood that war cannot be the future of Colombia. This means that half of the people who participated, did it consciously, because they pondered and judged what was best.
I don’t think that the same can be said about the other half, those who voted NO. A high percentage did so, fooled by the alarmist propaganda that was completely based on lies. Others, because they thought that by voting YES, they were supporting the Santos government, which for sure has many things to criticize. The manipulation of the extreme right was extremely rude.
So much so that the events in the country marched in opposite direction to their hate discourse. The Colombians in Bojayá or La Chinita, to only mention specific victims exclusively attributed to the FARC by the Santos propaganda, hugged with our delegation in a gesture of forgiveness and reconciliation and pointed to other perpetrators.
Something unthinkable for the NO promoters, who know that their main leaders will be called to respond for their deeds before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, and that if they don’t tell the truth, they will pay high sentences. And therefore they strive to speak of impunity for a guerrilla that doesn’t hesitate to apologize, hug victims and seek reparation.
Lovers of peace have won a lot with this process and the Final Agreement. The conscious half of the Colombian population is with us. Not counting the huge number of people that for some reason did not vote. The so called “five pennies” were missing, but this doesn't mean we will allow things to roll back. The agreements are a conquest we will not allow them to take away from us.
Peace and its benefits have penetrated the minds of the vast majority of Colombians, that's out of question. The proof is that even the most reactionary right wing alleges that it does not want war, but a different kind of peace. They are forced to disguise their objectives in order to reverse what they fear of the agreements. Let´s say it without hesitation, today, only an insane person is interested in a total war.
And that’s what those of us who are for peace should exploit to the fullest. The war will not return. The bilateral and definitive ceasefire cannot be ended without serious damage to Colombia. What is required is to amend the mess caused by the tied result of the plebiscite, in order to implement what is already signed and fully recognized by the international community.
The Constitutional Court said that the plebiscite would only have political effects, not legal. And politics is confronted with politics, with popular masses expressing themselves in all possible ways in favor of peace, in the streets, roads, universities and schools, in the squares, in every corner of the country. All feelings in pro of peace must come afloat and be shown.
What the far right is intending to do is to corner Juan Manuel Santos with a dubious result. With a bluff. War is defeated in our country and no one can deny it. The current environment of reconciliation and fraternization between soldiers, policemen and guerrillas can never be broken. No more Colombians should kill each other because of Uribe's demons.
Havana, October 4, 2016.