COLOMBIA: Letter to Gordo from Lisa Martens
June 24, 2002
COLOMBIALetter to Gordo from Lisa
[NoteIn early June, CPT members heard that paramilitaries killed one of
their commanders, Gordo Jose (nickname meaning "Fat Joe"). CPT members
interacted often with Gordo on a point of land in the Opon River where his
men maintained an illegal checkpoint for months.]
Buenas Noches Gordo.
Months ago, we heard rumours that someone had killed you, but the rumours
turned out to be false. We saw you the next day, and amongst ourselves,
nick-named you "Lazarus." I was glad you had not died violently.
You were one of the first paramilitary members I met. It was my first time
on the beautiful Opon River, and Erin and Matthew told me to be prepared
when we got to a certain point of land, because paramilitaries might be
there. You and your men looked big to me that day, with your guns
and hand-grenades and macho stances. I had a slow adrenaline dose and
was centered while talking with you. Afterward, when we CPTers were back
in our boat and out of your sight, I started shaking.
We explained our purposes to you about 100 times, and you explained to us
about 100 times that you were there "to kill guerrillas and protect the
It was on my heart to scream at you, "Don't you dare lie to me, man, about
'protecting the people.' Your organization does most of the violent
political acts in this country including the killing and raping of unarmed
civilians. You sick man." I did try to say those things using gentler
Hear me, though - I also have to believe that you did believe your own
rationale for what you were doing.
There's one thing I'm angrier about than almost anything else. It was the
time Manuel was taken. Pierre and I found out about the "disappearance"
after dark that night. We went straight to your neigbourhood to the store
where we usually meet you, and you showed up quickly. We demanded to know
where Manuel was and you said you didn't know anything about him. We
pushed and pushed and you wouldn't budge. Manuel's small community loved
him so much. His disappearance crushed their morale so horrifically. It
was like a text-book example of undermining a community so they wouldn't
have strength left with which to resist armed groups. Manuel had never
even been directly threatened before to our knowledge. It's entirely
possible that your paramilitary contingent
didn't do the crime, but all you paras are under one Commander,
ultimately, and I find it hard to believe that you knew nothing about
Manuel. I have never felt so helpless as when I was trying to get
information from you about that disappearance.
My teammate Matthew told me you were twenty-six years old. The same age as
him. Two years older than me. You looked almost forty. I shudder to think
of your death. The rumour is you were killed by your own people for
pilfering money, but who really knows?
That's about all from me, Gordo. I hope to God that you have some kind of
- Lisa Martens