Luz is 65 years old, she is the mother of 4 children and the victim of paramilitary terrorism after the forced disappearance of her partner. Eduardo Loffsner Torres on 20 November 1986, 34 years ago.
He had been a union leader for 45 years. First in a union in the banking sector and then in the union of the nation’s attorney general’s office. Because of his job and the promise he made to his partner, she did not talk about his disappearing for 14 years.
Her partner was a union leader at the Universidad Pedagógica de Colombia (Educational University of Colombia) and a member of the 19 April Movement that began as a political-military organization. “He made me promise that if he went missing I would not show my pain to the Colombian state by bearing his photograph in public.”
Due to her union-based activities, Luz Marina was assigned to the national General Prosecutor’s Office in 1994, where she was responsible for the human rights department. In 2000, the members of a judicial commission disappeared in the city of Valledupar, a city near the northern coast of Colombia. She travelled to the location and learned about the events that led to the disappearance of her colleagues, she spoke to their relatives and returned with information to Bogota. She received the first threat by telephone on arriving back there, and the calls did not stop. Luz Marina however never gave up, and she took part in the creation of the Movimiento de Víctimas de Crímenes Estado (The Movement of Victims of State Crimes – or MOVICE) in order to support the victims and protest crimes committed by the state either by action or omission.
She was the victim of an attack by paramilitaries, after having organized a march to demand justice for the missing civil servants. The attack had serious consequences on her health. It was then that an internationally-recognized Colombian organization, the José Alvear Restrepo (El Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo or CAJAR) contacted Amnesty International and took her out of the country as part of a project to protect human rights defenders in Colombia. She lived as a political refugee for 3 years in Lyon, France leaving 4 children behind.
Participating in the creation of MOVICE has required a great deal of political commitment on her part and, since its creation, she has acted as the national spokesperson on the issue of enforced disappearance. Now, while she is in Catalonia, the spokesperson is her son. Although Luz Marina never wanted to involve them in her activities, three of her four children are now human rights defenders.
> When were the initial moves made to create MOVICE?
In 2004, President Alvaro Uribe proposed entering into talks with Colombian paramilitary organisations and the victims of the conflict. We put forward the argument that the state could not engage in dialogue as it was an active party in the conflict and that we understood that the paramilitary forces were organizations created, funded and supported by the Colombian state. That was when we decided to organize, in September of 2004, and we created the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, which formally came into being in July 2005.
> And the threats began immediately
In July some 7,000 people got together in Bogota. It was a meeting that was not without problems, as the paramilitary forces tried to enter the place where we had gathered, they threatened us and tried to intimidate us by showing their weapons. It was a complicated episode. At the time, the spokesman for the victims was Iván Cepeda, who is now a congressman, he is the son of Manuel Cepeda, who was assassinated for belonging to the Communist Party and the UP (Patriotic Union).
We have carried out a lot of activities that have produced different threats that I did not pay much attention to, as I know that they are part of the political price that we have to bear as victims: even more so when the victims have been created by the Colombian state.
> They don’t want to recognize you as victims
Among those affected are victims of paramilitary activities and victims of the Colombian Armed Forces, as is my case. This has made the state want to disregard and ignore us as victims. However, MOVICE has managed to gain a national and international following because we have taken a stance on what has happened and what is still happening in Colombia.
> You are a defender of political rights not only with respect to the rights of missing persons, but for all victims: victims of forced displacement, selective homicide, massacres, threats.
MOVICE is formed by over 200 organizations that have been victimized, and whose members are direct victims and family members of the victims. We have raised awareness in Colombian society about the fact that the victims of state crimes do in fact exist.
> And within this structure is the peace process and the oldest guerrilla organisation in Latin America and the country, the FARC
The victims held several meetings to determine the position we would be taking in the face of this dialogue that the Colombian state, with former President Juan Manuel Santos, was establishing with the FARC. We decided to endorse a proposal of peace, as we believe, and we are convinced that Colombia needs to be a different country.
Sixty victims travelled to Havana where our demands and arguments were heard. For the first time the victims of enforced disappearance were visible, and as a result a unit was created to search for people who gone missing in the armed conflict and the Integral System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-repetition was established.
> A Truth Commission was also set up
Yes it was. In December of this year it will have completed the three-year term, which is the time assigned to it under legislation. We believe that the truth will only be a partial truth, as it will only investigate until the time of signing (2016) and in Colombia things have not stopped happening. Furthermore, it is a country where many people do not have access to technology, nor can they yet speak out, as they still live in areas controlled by the paramilitary groups and drug trafficking organisations. It will be a commission that will affirm a truth that we believe will not be what the victims are hoping for.
> The threats have not stopped
Santos left the presidency and was followed by Duque, who is the current president of the republic, and who represents the far right Colombian sector of Alvaro Uribe. Internationally he has proclaimed that it supports the peace process, but in practice we have seen that this is not true, as after the signing of this agreement 1,277 social leaders and 272 de-mobilized ex-combatants who believed in the possibility of peace have been killed in Colombia, until December last year. Previous to December there were a total of 95 massacres, and today the number is now 106.
What is more, the government has taken advantage of this pandemic that has kept us confined in order to take a series of measures and issue decrees that fundamentally support the banking sector, while the Colombian people have been left unprotected.
> And then came the National Strike
Before the pandemic, a national strike was organized on 20 November 2019 like the one that is happening now. Three days later, police killed a 17-year-old high school student, Dylan Cruz, in the city of Bogota. We at MOVICE took up the protest as Dylan’s death is clearly part of the state crimes that we are involved with.
I then received the first threat of 2019. From then on, until December last year I had 7 threats. This caused my children, who have been with me during this struggle, to worry about my safety. As a family we decided that I should either leave the country or shut up. MOVICE also made an assessment of my security status and decided to apply to the Human Rights Protection Programme of Catalonia and I was accepted.