Devastation in Colombia

There is an article in today’s Guardian about the ongoing civil war in Colombia, in which government-sponsored paramilitaries kidnap and murder ordinary people in the countryside and dress them up like FARC guerrillas, so as to claim rewards for killing FARC fighters. This usually goes unreported around the world, although there have been some exceptions (such as the incident where 11 young men from a poor suburb of Bogota were offered work , but were murdered and were found in a mass grave near the Venezuelan border, dressed in FARC uniforms). The government, which funds the paramilitaries, is itself funded by the USA to eliminate the cocaine trade, which is dominated by FARC.

I read this and wondered why it was buried in the Family section, a supplement normally reserved for whimsical stories about family life (the same page last week, as I recall, was occupied by a story about a mother who’s proud that her daughter is a lesbian). Perhaps they want to encourage people to read the supplement by putting a serious story in there, but why don’t they have something on the front page of the main section, or anywhere in the main section (such as in the International news pages) pointing to it? If you want a serious story about an international human rights scandal (which most Guardian readers would be interested in) to get read, it needs to be in the main section, or referenced from it.

There’s a serious error of translation in the article also, or at least an ambiguity. The last paragraph quotes a man called Vladimir Rubiano, who is looking after a boy whose father was killed in the war, as saying “the guerrilla killed his father”; the italics are theirs, which indicates that he really did use the word guerrilla in Spanish. That word in Spanish means the war itself, not a fighter as it means in English, so if that’s really what he said, it should have been translated as civil war, or just war. If he said guerrillero, which is the Spanish for guerrilla fighter, it should have been translated as “one of the guerrillas killed him”, or something similar. This is significant, as it does appear that he was probably killed by government-allied paramilitaries, not guerrillas (i.e. not FARC).

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