Observations regarding the decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of the Patriotic Union (a political party) versus the Colombian State

Today, January 30, 2023, I am proud to be a Latin American, the place where, perhaps more than in any other part of the world, there is a supranational institution truly dedicated to the protection of the rights of our population and its members against the corruption, ineptitude and violence of the governments which, for centuries have managed our countries under the direction and in the service of foreign powers. The truth is that today, when hypocrisy and falsehood reign throughout of our planet but especially among those countries in the northern hemisphere which proclaim themselves exceptional and morally superior, perhaps only in Latin America is real progress being made in the great battle (perhaps started at the beginning of the French Revolution) to achieve respect for the dignity of the individual, the dignity of minorities and the dignity of those who are different or believe in ways different from those established by elitist traditions. Respect for the dignity inherent in a world at peace where the sovereignty, dignity and rights of others are respected.

A horrible injustice, the torture, murder, calumny and genocide perpetrated by prior Colombian governments against the Patriotic Union and other social, cultural, civic and political movements has been, at least acknowledged, and some blame has been somewhat assigned, albeit directed at a Colombian State that under its recently elected center-left government (the first in Colombia’s history), has initiated profound attempts to effect change. But real justice calls for external processes with respect to those foreign countries responsible for so many barbaric episodes in our continent (and elsewhere), and it calls for internal processes that really establish the responsibility of the specific individuals involved in these crimes and the responsibility of their families who enjoyed and continue to enjoy the benefits illegally stolen from their relatives’ victims and from the innocent Colombian people. Processes with real consequences, consequences similar to those imposed by the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II, although those cases were almost entirely hypocritical, as were those who organized them but exempted themselves from answering for their own massive crimes against humanity, the “Allies” which were already planning similar crimes against billions of future victims through neoliberal economic policies enforced through neoconservative military and clandestine means.

I am proud to be a citizen of the newly evolving Colombia, although I am extremely embarrassed by the Colombian State of the past. And I personally deeply regret that I was not in Colombia during my formative years, working, as were the members of the Patriotic Union and other truly civic groups (many of whom paid with their lives), to attain the justice and common welfare that every Colombian deserves. Like so many other Colombians and Latin Americans, my family fled the violence orchestrated elsewhere, and I, as a six year old, became a member of the Latin Diaspora, only returning fifteen years ago after a life abroad.

We can do little to change the past, but we can learn from it, and as the Jews constantly urge (although unfortunately not through example), we can do everything possible to avoid the past’s mistakes. That, at least, seems to be what the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ decision and related orders directed at the Colombian State demand. In furtherance of such goals, all Colombians and all Latin Americans can join the Patriotic Union and the numerous other social, cultural, indigenous, Afro-descendant and related political movements, and with the many victims of our unjust (until now perpetual) conflicts, to finally begin to extinguish violence, to extinguish impunity, to extinguish inequity and inequality, to extinguish injustice and intolerance towards those with different perspectives, to hold those who govern us accountable for their corruption and ineptitude, and to assure that our supposed public servants (too many of whom believe that they are superior to those to whom their duty is really owed) come to understand what just what a “servant” is.

January 30, 2023: a day upon which to reflect and a day on which dedicate ourselves to creating the Colombia that we all deserve. A day to always remember. A day for understanding the complex emotions we should be feeling, a synthesis of pride, elation and joy, intractably intertwined with shame and remorse and dedicated to doing better in the future, much, much better.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé


© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2023; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at https://guillermocalvo.com/.

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