A pattern of breakfast, meetings, lunch, siesta, meetings, sitting around in the hotel reception, dinner, bed is quickly established . Nothing visibly powerful to do or see.
There were 10 families to begin with and many more people started arriving from different regions. By 1998 there was around 1000 people living in the community.
When our children started to grow up we built a school. We found teachers who had a high level of education that meant every child could get a good education. We also started building good paths, and later, roads (35km’s worth) around the community and to other villages.
A normal day for me was to work from 6am to 6pm. I grew yuca, plantain and rice. I also looked after the cows and pigs. This was my life, my passion, mi gusto. For me this proves that things that appear impossible can become real when we work communally.
Then the paramilitaries entered the region in February 1999, just one hours walks from my farm. Over the next few years we organised 8 marches - in the municiapl towns and the Capital of the region – demanding our rights were respected and that the paramilitaries leave the region. I was singled out as an organised and so had to leave the farm.
I stayed in the region until 2007, moving between different places, supported by different communities, with my wife and young daugher. At times we had to walk for 25 days in order to leave the region to report murders.
What I saw wasn’t fair, what was happening. They were killing the young people, old people. There was masacares all over the region. I was not going to work on the farm any more, instead dedicate myself to social work, building up people’s skills, organising.
When the paramilitaries were there I could hide but now the army have arrived I can’t hide in the region. One has to understand that within the army are the paramilitaries so the army does not mean you have security.
Before the arrival of the paramilitaries, the army already disappeared, tortured, killed. There was so many reports made about this that they had to change their strategy. And so the paramilitaries entered – they could do the brutal things.
What we now understand is that people were killed and disappeared because other interests appeared in the region, interests of multinationals.
They killed my son, they disappeared another. Brother of my wife was also disappeared. My son was killed on the 22 Sept 2002 in El Pairaiso, the army disappeared my second son in the middle of May 2005.
The debate around the Law for Victims (that we went to on Thursday) to me is very dangerous as it supports impunity. It can’t ignore why we are victims, who benefitted from us becoming victims. The truth wil be when the state recognises that what has happened is a project of the state.
The land has to be taken away from the paramilitaries, from the multinationals and people can return to their territories. They must return my land, my house, and that they leave us in peace.
Those who are guilty must pay. But the guilty is not the person who shot, he is not the enemy, he probably didn’t know why, he was just ordered. Those who give the orders - they kill.
Now my wife and I live in the flat of my daughter in Bogota. We are looking for some land, as we are campesinos. I would like to live in the Sur de Bolivar but it is not possible. To go there I need to have accompaniment but this isn’t possible all the time so a bit of land near Bogota would be good."The fact of my place of birth and my skin colour means that Gabo can return and work in his region. He knows that the political costs of disappearing him are raised higher with the presence of the likes of me.
I am strategically using racist structures - ones which make clear that my life as a white European is worth more than a brown Colombian. And as I do, I am complicit with racism. This is difficult. How do I ensure I don't reinforce a sense of European superiority over the Latin American's with the people I meet. Perhaps I can't - they will read my body as they choose. But I can think about how my behaviour, mannerisms, ideas, words might be interpreted by the people I am with, and with this I can try to walk a sensitive path.