Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Mother's Pain and Courage

Dear friends,

The last time that Maria saw her son alive was when she left their home on November 26 to attend an event organized by the Dawn of Women for Arauca. A few hours after the event ended, Samuel and another young man were killed by the Colombian army outside of Saravena. The commander of the 18th Brigade declared that the army had killed two “narco-terrorists of the ELN (guerrillas)” in combat and that the army was working to “ensure the December festivities” for the people of the region.

The event on November 26 commemorated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It was the first time Maria had heard about the Dawn of Women for Arauca and she expressed her enthusiasm during the event. “I felt so strong there” Maria told us, and she explained that it helped her to deal with her son’s death.

Samuel Navia Moreno was 27 years old and was attending night school to finish his high school education. He played guitar and was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist church.

Maria told me that Samuel sang “serenatas” (serenades) for women on their birthdays – especially for the women that live in the poor neighborhoods of Saravena. “They’re not going to receive any gifts” he would say to Maria. During the funeral, various women told Maria “He gave me a serenade for my birthday.” One of them asked her to “open the coffin so I can give him a rose.”

The members of the church put together a video of Samuel for the funeral. It showed him working on projects in the neighborhoods and giving roses to the women for their birthdays. In one segment, Samuel was on crutches and singing. Maria explained that he had torn some tendons in a motorcycle accident. Seeing him sing in the video, “Filled me with happiness” she said. “He was my happiness.”

Jhon Carlos Nocua Rueda, the other victim, was just 18 years old and helped provide for his mother and two siblings. His family filed a denunciation with the Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation just hours after they learned of his death. As Rosaura, his mother, was leaving the office all I could do was put my hand on her shoulder and say “I’m sorry.” She began to cry and said, “I want my son alive.” The family returned the next day after they had seen his body - they said that Jhon Carlos had been beaten to death.

This year the Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation has documented 16 cases of “extrajudicial executions” – civilians killed by the army and then presented as guerrillas killed in combat. On November 28, I traveled with the president of the Arauca Peasant Association to their office in Arauquita. Leaders of a rural community in the municipality of Tame came to the office to file a denunciation about human rights abuses in their area this year – including five extrajudicial executions.

In the midst of their pain, Maria and Rosaura found the courage to denounce these killings in an effort to prevent other families from suffering the loss of their sons.

“I disagree with the army’s declaration that my son was a guerrilla” said Maria. “He lived with me in my house and he was never a guerrilla.”

“The only thing I want is justice for my son” said Rosaura.

In love and solidarity.



Frank Partisan said...

Very powerful post on this week of the anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine.

Phil said...

Here's a blog you might find interesting about violence against women:


Unknown said...

There are certainly numerous details like that to take into consideration. That is a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you bring up where the most important thing can be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your job is clearly identified as a fair game. Both boys and girls feel the impact of just a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.