The Organization of Mothers of False Positives of Soacha and Bogotá, MAFAPO, announces that it is pulling out of joint activities with the government’s Center for Historical Memory. The organization cites the attitude of the director named by the Duque government in 2019, Darío Acevedo, who in the past denied the existence of an armed conflict in Colombia.
The human rights group Corporación MINGA withdraws its archive from the government’s Center for Historical Memory due to concerns about its director, Darío Acevedo. The materials MINGA took back included 66 boxes, 427 folders, and 31,265 folios of testimonies and documents. Acevedo, who took over the Center in 2019, had made past statements denying the existence of an armed conflict, and in the view of human rights defenders, has been favoring efforts to help military officers and large landowners to tell their stories of victimization.
The president of the FEDEGAN cattlemen’s federation, José Félix Lafaurie, delivers two reports to the National Center for Historical Memory attesting that “approximately 11,000 cattlemen have declared themselves conflict victims.” Cattle ranchers are widely alleged to have been a key support for paramilitary groups, and Lafaurie’s predecessor, Jorge Visbal, was imprisoned for supporting the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.
The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, a global network of historic sites, museums and memory initiatives, sends a letter notifying Colombia’s National Center for Historical Memory that it has been expelled from the organization.
The Coalition’s director, Elizabeth Silkes, had sent a letter in September 2019 to the National Center’s director, Darío Acevedo, asking him to reconfirm the Center’s commitment to the conflict’s victims and to recognize the existence of the armed conflict, among other issues. Acevedo did not respond to that letter.
Acevedo, a very conservative intellectual, took office in February 2019 as a very controversial choice for a government body dedicated to preserving the memory of conflict victims. In a 2017 interview with Medellín’s El Colombiano, he had said, “Some people believe that what Colombia lived through was an armed conflict, something like a confrontation between the state and some organizations that rose up against it. Others think that it was the state defending itself against a terrorist threat and from some organizations that had degenerated in their political perspective by mixing themselves in with kidnapping, narcotrafficking, and crimes against humanity. Though the Victims’ Law says that what was lived was an armed conflict, that can’t become an official truth.”
On February 5, President Duque and Director Acevedo preside over a ceremony commemorating the laying of the first stone at the construction site where the Historical Memory Center will build a Museum of Memory, a project begun during the Santos government. Some victims’ groups, most notably the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, which wasn’t invited to attend, protest outside the event.
A February 11 letter from 63 prominent international scholars voices concern “for the ostensible loss of credibility” that the National Center for Historical Memory has suffered under Acevedo’s leadership.