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Monday, 24 April 2017 00:00

Recovering from war: the story of Luis, a young Colombian peasant

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Dabeiba is perhaps one of the Antioquia’s municipalities most hit by the violence, located in the north western part of Colombia.

Dabeiba is also known as "The door to the Urabá", although it could be "The door to the terror due the killings, forced displacement and suffering that every peasant can tell". In 1996 paramilitaries arrived to the territory and then the first massacres took place.

But before that, Dabeiba was a prosperous land. “This place used to produce all kinds of fruits; it was a very fertile land. One could come out to the rural settlement and people would buy whatever crops you had, in a market, in a store, even in a canteen. They used to order dozens of fruits. I would count the money and think: I can now go to the market” recalls Judith, president of the Community Action Board in the Barrancas rural settlement.

It is said that on Saturdays and Sundays the town was so full that there was barely any space to walk. But in 1999 population was reduced to the half since the paramilitary siege made them move out. Most of them were displaced to Medellín, others died and just a few stayed, but they also suffered the aggressions. “We had to sleep in the mountains, we haven’t recovered from the war” says one of Judith’s sons.

Llanogrande is a rural settlement that was in the middle of the crossfire. Things have changed now because a Transitional Local Zone for Normalization [where the region's FARC-EP troops are grouped] is located nearby the rural settlement and peasants seek reconciliation.

Luis survived to tell his story

Luis is a joyful peasant disposed to tell how he survived the war. He used to live in the Cañaveral rural settlement but had to move to Medellín with his family. Two years after, he couldn’t take it anymore and he missed the countryside for which he decided to go back, but this time to Llanogrande.

Paramilitaries in Dadeiba used to drive around in a white van, break into houses, take people out and take them away without return; sometimes they even stole their shoes. Three men had control of everything there: Conrado, Pelusa and Escalera. The last one used to have a checkpoint at crossroads division of the roads that lead to Urama and Llanogrande. He used to chop peasants and throw them in the river. “Escalera was a very mad man. He was big and fat. One day he gathered us together at the crossroads and took out a long list with names and said that he was going to start to cross people out of the list, which meant that he was going to kill them” recalls Luis.

Eight days after, Luis was going towards town and close to the crossroads some guerrillas came out and said that they had to stay there until new instructions.

“We were stacked like cattle next to a tree. A guerrilla commander told us that they were going to take a weight off our backs. Later, there was a line of 15 dead paramilitaries along the bridge and they brought Escalera. They told us that they were going to do to him the same hat he used to do to the peasants, then they let us continue our paths”.
“I was in town when a van passed by, it stopped and they pulled me in. We all knew that they were paramilitaries. I escaped and hid in a pharmacy. There, a soldier protected me. Those men were following me all afternoon long. A cousin of mine had heard some shots and said I got killed. The news quickly spread throughout the rural settlement. Next day I got home and my family couldn’t believe it”

Luis stopped going to town. It was his wife who had to go to buy the groceries every 8 days. Three years ago, he went out again. Those same men that were following him sent him greetings. “One day I got angry sent them the message that they could come over whenever they wanted to, that I would kill a fat chicken for them. What did I do? I got a gun to protect myself. Nobody ever came, then I sold that gun”.

Afterwards, Luis was detained by the army, according to them, because he was the commandant of the FARC´s Fifth Front. “A soldier caught me and told me I was now detained, that I couldn’t move. I left the shovel; they tied me up and took me to the corral. At two in the afternoon a helicopter came and took me to town, to the dungeon. I was there for eight days and they never proved anything against me”.

In another occasion, Luis was milking the cows while he worked as a farm's butler:

“It was four in the morning; I was crouched down with the pail on the ground. Suddenly, side by side, there were two men wearing camouflage. I looked up, I was surrounded. They punctured the rifle on my belly – milk that cow quickly – they said, and asked for the milk. They were paramilitaries coming from Aguila, another rural settlement. There they had already killed Juan. They drank the milk and left. At six we had to take the milk to the dairy, close to the crossroads. I went with my son. When we arrived there we realized that they had killed the milkman. That day it could have been all of us who died”.

Source: Prensa Rural