the price of honor

A few meters from the kindergarten or in the middle of a piñata, a mother recognizes her son’s voice or laughter. No crowd distracts her from that presence or quells the protective instinct that remains over time, even when the son is gone. No matter if there are 120 absent sons of hers, the silence of hers will always stun her.

During the recognition hearings of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace in Ocaña, some mothers of victims of case 03 (Killings and forced disappearances presented as casualties in combat by State agents) made lists of petitions to the State: yearnings for justice and reparation, but above all clamor from honor.

Although the restorative justice proposed by the Havana Agreement establishes various ways to compensate for the damage, the list of mothers is denser.

In the recognition hearings of the crimes committed by members of the Army in Catatumbo, a repeated act of those appearing distorted its original symbolic load: naming the victims. Naming not only means giving existence in the world, but, in this context, recovers the dignity of the victims who were presented as illegal combatants; not in vain, at the end of the act, Zorayda Navarro Meneses, daughter of Jesús Emilio Navarro Garay, demanded that both the Jurisdiction and the perpetrator properly name her father (whose body remains missing). But the deepest and most prolonged distortion was another: those appearing read the names of their victims on a piece of paper. That reading, that is to say, that these identities do not even remain in the memory of the perpetrators, is the maximum evidence of invisibility and dehumanization (it is probable that the same thing will happen in the hearings of acknowledgment of kidnapping with the FARC, soon to be held). ); even the assassins know the data of their victims before killing them, but this was not the case: like butchers, they did not even know who they were sacrificing. Before being killed, these young people were already dead, without identity, without history, without existence.

The list of mothers is not very extensive. Here are some of their demands: (1) get to the top of the chain of command, determine who gave the order; (2) clear the good name of the victims; (3) exempt from compulsory military service the relatives and heirs of the victims of homicide of a protected person, and (4) withdraw decorations and promotions from the military who are committed to these crimes.

As a citizen and taxpayer, I delve into this last requirement: what does an award imply in terms of salary for a soldier? Do the current pensions of these defendants include the benefits of said promotions and honors? Are we paying with our taxes the “honorary” pensions of soldiers like Publio Hernán Mejía (La Popa subcase) or Paulino Coronado (Catatumbo subcase)? Would the withdrawal of honors have an effect on the pensions of these high command?

Without diminishing the value of the symbol (naming, dignifying, confessing in public to obtain the benefits of transitional justice), winning and losing honor has a price… let the mothers who have spent decades without voice or laughter say so, only with a name and his honor.

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the price of honor


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