Conflict | 2/9/2009 12:00:00 AM
“Kill them and lets get out of here”: FARC
Sigifredo López, the only survivor of the 12 Valle del Cauca deputies, tells how the FARC coldly murdered his colleagues in a tragedy that shook all Colombians.
In the middle of the mourning, the news came out that Sigifredo López, one of the deputies, was still alive because, according to the FARC, he was in another camp. From then on he would bear witness to the truth about the last moments of his colleagues’ lives.
Last Thursday, six years and ten months after having been kidnapped, López returned to freedom and told what happened to his colleagues. The story begins on June 17th. Although they were in the same camp, the FARC kept them separated in two groups. That day, López was talking with Ramiro Echeverri (one of the deputies) about sharing a plastic tarp to protect against the rain, when a guerrilla told them to shut up. “He said, ‘sons of bitches, stop making noise.’ And I responded to him: ‘look sir, don’t talk to us like that,’ remembers López.
“Pocillo” the second in command of the 30th Front of the FARC took López 30 meters away from the camp. “There I asked the official what they were going to do to me. And they told me, ‘you are really rebellious, an insubordinate.’” The guerrilla put a thick-linked chain around his hands and tied it to a chonto palm tree. This punishment would save his life.
At 11 in the morning the next day the deputies lined up for lunch, but López and his guard had had theirs at in their new position, from where they could not see the others. At around 11:30 they heard two shots, and later two more.
“I threw myself to the ground. I thought about rescue and the only thing that I remember is that I asked God to protect me. After three minutes gunfire began. I heard the official who had ordered my chaining up who said ‘don’t let them go, don’t let them go!’”
Some time after that, López found out what had happened 30 meters above where he had been. “A guerrilla told me what had happened. When the two shots and the return fire were heard, someone said ‘the thugs have come in,’ and the commander said ‘kill them and let’s go.’”
López waited immobilized on the ground for ten minutes. A guerrilla visibly affected arrived to where the deputy was, checked the chain and sat down on a tree trunk close by in silence. Another guerrilla arrived. “One told the other to stay here, that they would ask what to do with this man, meaning what to do with me.”
He packed up what little he had and began to walk under the guerrilla’s orders. But it wasn’t the same trail as always. So the deputy asked for his bag and the guerrilla screamed, ‘You are always screwing with us. Didn’t you see that the thugs came in? Be thankful that you are alive!’”
But López knew that something was wrong and that it wasn’t the Army who had come. “There was no combat, no helicopters, because if there had been combat, I wouldn’t have slept ten minutes the previous night, nor would I have during the next days.”
Asking about his companions they answered that they had been taken away. Later, and from the mouth of the same guerrilla who told him of the commander’s orders, he found out that six guerrillas from the 29th Front had arrived without warning.
Ten days later, at four in the morning, López found out like all of Colombia from the communiqué from the FARC that announced the deaths of the deputies. He heard incredulously the news on the radio, but soon had to face that it was the truth.
“They killed them out of physical cowardice. It was a vile murder. It is what is called a crime of war, out of paranoia, because they had an order that if they are going to lose the trophy, kill them first, before that happens.”
On that day, the guerrillas from the 30th Front of the FARC mistook six combatants from the 29th Front with an Army raid. So they loaded their guns and surrounded the 11 deputies. They fired.
“The terrible murder of my colleagues is a mark on the soul that the Colombian people can never forget. They were full of life and that was snatched away from them miserably. They never deserved to be assassinated like they were by the FARC on June 18th, 2007 at 11:30.”