Lights of Bogotá

Santa Fe de Bogotá, with almost ten million inhabitants, is the capital of Colombia, and has a rich cultural and journalistic tradition that distinguishes it from others. Not long ago I was there and I was able to obtain firsthand information about the details of the longest armed conflict in the American continent: the fight against the FARC.

El Espectador's logotype
El Espectador’s logotype

I spent two days in the newsroom of the newspaper El Espectador with its editor-in-chief, Nelson Fredy, and I confirmed the importance of the journalist profession for a society. Moreover, I also realized what it has meant to work as a journalist in Colombia in the last decades, fulfilling the words of Hemingway who asserted that the journalist profession is the most dangerous in the world.

El Espectador celebrated its 130rd anniversary on March 23,” says Nelson Fredy. “It is one of the oldest newspaper in the world and has been considered by the French one Le Monde one of the ten most important print media. El Espectador was founded in Medellín by Fidel Cano Gutiérrez who had studied in Europe and was a fervent defender of freedom of expression. Already in the first editions, El Espectador became a benchmark of public opinion and has had to wage several battles to prevent it from being shut down. ”

Nelson Fredy covered for years the life of the guerrillas, living with them in distant places. He tells me his opinion about the armed conflict and the role of Havana in the Peace Process:

“In 1959 the first guerrilla groups emerged, encouraged by the recent triumph of the Cuban revolution. That year the Colombian guerrillas asked the government to build a highway in their territories, but the government never responded. In 1964, they declared themselves the opponents of the government, and later La Marimba- which included the narco element in the jungle scene and guerrilla groups- was born in La Guajira state. The paramilitaries soon appeared on the scene and, although they maintained collaboration with the State, they inserted themselves in the routes of the cartels to form part of the drug trafficking business. In those times, they began to be compared to other guerrilla groups by the methods they applied: extortion, kidnapping and armed attacks. Unfortunately, the Peace Process signed in Havana has not achieved what Colombians need. So far this year, 130 human rights defenders have been murdered, most of them asking for their lands to be returned. Violence, although now territorialized, continues. And so does the drug trafficking. ”

Edwin Bohórquez, editor of the Business and Economy section of El Espectador, says that not only the drug trafficking has been killing journalists. The political system that has prevailed for so many years in Colombia and its economic power are also responsible.

“Admirable was the battle that Guillermo Cano fought for thirty years from his position as director of El Espectador; but it cost him his life. All the journalists who work in this press are proud to serve in a newspaper with so much history and reputation. ”

Pedro Vaca is the president of the Foundation for the Freedom of Press in Colombia. He stands in solidarity with independent Cuban journalists, who defy the communist regime and risks their life by telling what the official press is not mentioning.

“Cuba does not respect freedom of the press; on the contrary, it despises it, ” says Vaca, “we are aware of the new law, the Law of Usurpation of Legal Capacity, which has begun to be used against some Cuban journalists for exercising the profession without an academic title. This is worrying”.

Juan Esteban Lemus is the Vice Director of the portal La silla vacía, an independent digital agency, avant-garde in the alternative media of Colombia. He says that the purpose of the site is to analyze power relations, to delve deep in how the government works in a country and to denounce corruption in all spheres.

“Cuba is one of the few countries in the world that does not hold free elections. We in La Silla vacia call this the “abduction of power.” Of course, we believe that it must be denounced as a human rights violation: the right to elect the president, to choose the supreme authorities of the country. ”

At present, one of the most important journalists in Colombia is Mauricio Morales. He was a war correspondent in Syria and published several newsreels of great media impact. When asked about the 50-year-old armed conflict in Colombia and the peace signed in Havana, he states:

“The Colombian conflict is far from over. Although a disarmament agreement has been reached with the largest guerrillas operating in Colombia, there are still many armed groups and many unresolved social conflicts. In the specific case of the peace process between the FARC and the government, it was a process where the Cuban government, and other countries like Norway, acted as a facilitator. Cuba has supported in some way all the proclaimed socialist and communist guerrillas in Latin America and, although small, it has taken a first step towards a possible change by supporting the peace process and discrediting the armed struggle. However, it is time that the Cuban government begins to observe what is happening in its own country. Without a doubt, it should begin to generate spaces of peace and free expression for its citizens”.