Let’s party Colombia

Sandro Calvani| 23 June 2016

Donde no hay bala hay baile… where there is no shooting, let’s party. A well-known Colombian saying so reminds of some essential point of Colombian culture. I learned it in the early 2000s, during the first days of diplomatic service for the United Nations in Colombia. The one who taught to me the deep significance of a basic rule of common life in Colombia was the Minister of Justice at the time; he was trying to answer my question on how could there be so much happiness, spread in a country affected by the most severe and longest conflict ever seen in the Americas.
The Colombian world record is in fact a bad story of prolonged violence over time, for almost sixty years. The outcomes are more than 220,000 people killed in the conflict since 1958. More than six million of victims of war crimes, if one adds all those who have lost their homes, land, work or place of residence, rendered disabled by mines and other explosive, women and children raped, kidnapped, threatened and victims of terrorism or torture perpetrated by all sides. The culprits were the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), the most brutal form of terrorism recorded in Latin America, the extreme right rebels of Autodefensas, the various legal and illegal militias, including several human rights abuses of the security forces like the army and the police. At the same time, the great hope and resilience of the wonderful Colombian people make them the happiest people in the world, as confirmed by the annual survey of the Win / Gallup, which declared Colombia the happiest country in the world in 2016.

During my years of service in Colombia until 2007, my work for the United Nations has taken me to all the peripheries of the country where I witnessed first hand the results of decades of massive economic inequality and bad land tenure policies, hard to believe in modern times, of a serious lack of the State and of justice. In my thirty-five years of work in the bloodiest areas of the world of our time, Colombia was also the only case where I happened to pick up the dead bodies of young colleagues, slain by a hail of an AK47 machine gun. The death of every innocent is always a very sad moment, to which unfortunately the news have accustomed us; but when it happens to someone very close, with whom we worked until a few minutes ago, the psychological resistance barriers learned by experience or training in conflict management disappear immediately, leaving a deep state of despair. Over six million innocent victims of the Colombian internal conflict have meant that each family of the forty-six million citizens had to suffer at least one person seriously affected by the conflict. However, all Colombians now agree that toda bala es perdida, any bullet is useless, as sung by Cesar Lopez, the inventor of Escopetarra, the AK47 machine gun turned into guitars, which, by cutting off the barrel, can only produce music of peace.

I always reacted to the bad news of each dead person killed by either party with a written or personal message to the authorities and to the citizens. I reminded them that we can take out more and more terrorists and we can overcome criminals; but the real and lasting peace can only be built by education and a new state and citizen’s responsibility on the side of justice. President Juan Manuel Santos, then defense minister, has always confirmed to me that he agreed with me. When I met him a few months ago at the United Nations in New York he told me that his country was about to win the peace.
Today Colombia signed an historic agreement, it wins peace and happiness forever laying down their weapons.
Let’s party Colombia, you truly deserved it.

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