STOCK MARKET BSE NSE

As Colombia peace looms, crossfire town mourns dead

Granada became one of the centers of a many-sided fight that has now lasted for more than half a century.

Published: 23rd June 2016 08:48 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd June 2016 08:48 PM   |  A+A-

By AFP

GRANADA: Amanda Suarez weeps as she remembers her husband, one of hundreds of Colombians killed in a crossfire when right-wing paramilitaries battled leftist rebels for the green valley where they lived.

The ceasefire agreement due to be signed Thursday between Colombia's government and the FARC rebels has raised hopes but also painful memories for her and the families of hundreds of thousands of others killed in the half-century conflict.

Lying in verdant hills among coffee and fruit plantations east of the city of Medellin, Granada bears the scars of the war more than anywhere.

Some 1,800 people were killed here and 600 disappeared, caught in the crossfire of the struggle for Granada, where several warring groups arrived one by one beginning in the 1980s.

Suarez, 62, cries as she points to the face of her husband. His picture hangs on a wall covered in similar portraits in the town's museum of the conflict.

"From 2000 the war here got worse. My husband died in the massacre of November 3," Suarez says.

"The paramilitaries killed him. Nineteen people died that day."

Two months later, 600 guerrillas of the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) took back the town.

They pounded it for 18 hours with homemade bombs made from gas canisters.

"It was a tragedy," says local man Arnoldo Norena, 68.

"We hid in the town hall. We all shut ourselves in. I could see the canisters exploding. When I put my head outside, everything was just rubble," he recalls.

"My mother died. A bomb killed her," causing her house to collapse on top of her, he says.

Terror

Granada became one of the centers of a many-sided fight that has now lasted for more than half a century.

Leftist guerrillas of the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) fought right-wing paramilitaries and state armed forces.

"All of the sides in the conflict were fighting here," Suarez says.

"The FARC, the paramilitaries, the ELN and the armed forces."

She picks up a broom and sweeps the entrance to the small exhibition, known as the "Museum of Pain" or "Never Again."

With its fertile fields and illegal goldmines, the area of Granada was a prime battleground.

The warring armed groups battled for territory in regions where the Colombian state had little control.

"We had only 45 police officers to defend the town" of thousands, Suarez says.

The town counted 23 major massacres between 1999 and 2003.

Suarez and thousands of fellow residents fled. She moved to Medellin and lived there three years, a widow and mother of seven.

"There was terror here. People were terrified to go out into the street. Terrified to go to work," she says.

"At six in the evening you had to shut yourself in your house."

Moving on

With Thursday's ceasefire expected to pave the way for a full peace deal, Granada's traumatized victims want to move on.

"We have lived through this war. We are not ready to live through something like this again," Suarez says.

Seeing the progress at the peace talks hosted in Cuba, Arnoldo Norena is hopeful.

"It is going the right way. You have to forgive. You have to move forward. What else can we do?"

Stay up to date on all the latest World news with The New Indian Express App. Download now

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp