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Interview with Martina Giraldo

Daughter talks of father tortured and killed by Colombian Army
By staff |
November 24, 2009
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Martina Giraldo at the protest to shut down the School of the Americas, 2009
Martina Giraldo at the protest to shut down the School of the Americas, 2009 (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Fight Back! spoke with Martina Giraldo at the protest to shut down the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. The SOA trains the military officers who run death squads in many Latin American countries. The SOA is a school for torture, death and destruction. Martina lives near Cali, Colombia and is the daughter of Jose Orlando Giraldo - who was murdered by the Colombian Army. Martina Giraldo heads a human rights group called the Asociacion Colectivo Interdisciplinario para la Defensa de Derechos Humanos (ACIDDH).

Fight Back!: Who was your father?

Martina Giraldo: My Father’s name is Jose Orlando Giraldo. He was a farmer, who lived close to Cali. He was not an activist and did no type of political organizing. He was just a farmer who was well known and beloved by those who knew him in the area.

Fight Back!: Why was your father killed?

Martina Giraldo: The Colombian military assassinated him on March 11, 2006. Colombian President Uribe's 'Democratic Security' policy uses 'measurements for success' - meaning the Colombian military kills civilians and then counts them as FARC guerrilla combat deaths in order to obtain promotions and funding, that was the only reason. On the day of my father’s death, the Colombian military needed a ‘false positive’ within the farming area, and they accused my father of planning to attack or destroy the electrical infrastructure in a nearby town. The Colombian military claimed my father was a member of the FARC, and was trying to impact the elections at that time. The Colombian military also accused him of being a major drug trafficker, which he was not. He was really just a farmer, who was tortured and executed by men trained at the School of the Americas.

Our human rights group learned that between January 2002 and December 2008, there were 2981 cases similar to that of my father's. The victims are farmers, poor workers, trade unionists and Afro-Colombians. The Colombian map is divided by where the military brigades are, and all divisions of the military are linked to these cases, across the whole country.

It should be mentioned that Colombian soldiers are given rewards, money, days off, promotions and other incentives for committing the murders and dressing the victims in FARC rebel uniforms.

Living in Colombia is difficult, as I have received death threats for speaking out against these atrocities. Earlier this year, in 2009, an assassination attempt was made against my uncle. My uncle now lives in exile in his own country, away from his hometown, and has two bodyguards with him at all times.

Fight Back!: How do you feel about U.S. war and intervention in Colombia?

Martina Giraldo: Seven U.S. military bases are being put into our country in an illegal way. The bases are not part of Plan Colombia - the previous U.S. dirty war. The seven U.S. bases are part of a new treaty with the White House. Colombian President Uribe says it is a small thing, and so it did not go through the Colombian Congress. It should have gone through the Colombian Congress, but was forced on us illegally. It is a territorial invasion of Colombia by the U.S. By the same token, the military personnel from the U.S. enjoy complete immunity, so they are not tried for their offenses, like the U.S. soldier who raped a twelve-year old girl. The U.S. bases are going to escalate the war, solidify and worsen the problem, and have grave consequences.

Fight Back!: What can we do in the U.S. to change the war?

Martina Giraldo: Go before Congress in the U.S. - speak to and protest Senators and Representatives who fund the war in Colombia. The reactionary politics that affect Colombia are coming from the U.S. Letter writing campaigns, protests like the one today at the SOA, or other ways to raise awareness will help.