Other Topics
    NewsLatin AmericaPatricia Tobon Yagari: "We found a monumental lag in compliance with the victims"

    Patricia Tobon Yagari: “We found a monumental lag in compliance with the victims”

    Patricia Tobon, director of the Victims Unit, during the interview in Bogota, on December 6, 2022.Diego Cuevas

    Patricia Tobon Yagari (Jardin, 35 years old) is one of the most visible faces of the unprecedented indigenous participation in the Government of Gustavo Petro. A constitutional lawyer, the director of the Unit for Victims comes from the Embera Chami community –one of the many peoples affected by the armed conflict that Colombia seeks to extinguish– and she lived her first years in the Karmatarrua reservation, in the department of Antioch. She comes from being the youngest among the 11 members of the Truth Commission, which emerged from the peace agreement with the extinct FARC guerrilla, which delivered its long-awaited final report last June. The document, among others, recognizes that ethnic peoples have suffered disproportionately from violence.

    “The war took place mainly in the countryside, and many of us lived through it,” says Tobon Yagari in his new office in western Bogota, near the El Dorado airport, a huge and soulless building through which various groups of victims make a pilgrimage. He had to see the indigenous territory occupied by armed groups, people who went to war never to return, and entire communities confined by mines. “In Colombia, victims are not measured by a victimizing event but by multiple victimizing events,” he usually explains. She decided to become a lawyer because it was a necessity for her community.

    When he arrived in August to direct the Unit – which emerged in 2012 from a law on victims and land restitution – he found a “monumental backlog” of non-compliance. Some reports indicate that it would take more than 90 years to make full reparations to the victims of the armed conflict. “We can help reduce the gaps in this lag,” he says about a work team dedicated to the field. “The unit will fulfill its function of being the articulating axis of the policy for victims, taking the different institutions of the national State to those territories,” he promises. “Adapting to the needs of the territory is an exercise that all State entities have been asked to do. It is the great challenge that this government has. We are going to serve the victims.”

    Read Also:   Lula's team and the Bolsonaro government advance towards the transition despite the president's silence

    Official figures include 9,379,858 registered victims, of which the vast majority, 91%, are victims of forced displacement. Most are also in poverty. That number is not reduced, on the contrary, it increases because the conflict resurfaces, laments the official.

    From his hand also comes a new sensitivity to the entity. “I am indigenous, I have worked all my life in favor of the victims in many territories where there is no State, where the State has been the communities themselves, the indigenous, Afro-descendant, peasant, human rights and church organizations, where the community leaders who have had to try to solve, with what they can, the reality they suffer”, he recalls about his curriculum, which includes the deep listening process of the Truth Commission. “For many years I followed up on the orders that the judges gave to the entities, and I made notes on the non-compliance of this entity, of the Unit for Victims, and observations of the absence of the work approaches of rurality, of the ethnic, gender approach ”, he details.

    This is going to require a transformation to open up to rurality, gender approaches, ethnicity and the implementation of the peace agreement. One of his great tasks, he affirms with conviction, is for the Unit to update itself in compliance with judicial orders, the Comptroller’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office, as well as to articulate the entity with the Comprehensive System for Peace, which emerged from the agreement with the FARC, but also with Justice and Peace, which came out of the process with the paramilitaries, and with everything that is being debated right now in the framework of the total peace that this government is pursuing.

    Read Also:   Militarization is not the solution


    Analysis of current affairs and the best stories from Colombia, every week in your mailbox


    Tobon Yagari is also the highest-level official who has reached Alto Andagueda, in the department of Choco, the territory from which many Embera indigenous people were displaced by violence, forced to beg in cities like Bogota. In November she arrived in that community, at the head of fifty officials from different ministries, with the purpose of solving the chronic problem of displacement. The return of the Embera was also the reason for the first agreement reached at the government negotiating table with the ELN guerrillas in Caracas.

    Protests by the Embera who have been in settlements in Bogota for two years led to a pitched battle in the center of the capital in October. Then a dialogue began between the government and the indigenous people, in which she has been very involved. “One of the great conclusions of these meetings is that it was necessary to be able to dialogue with the ELN about the return of the Embera, and guarantee that they could really be in their territories,” she says. The eventual return depends on defusing the conflict. “The new Comprehensive System for Attention to Victims opens up to a process of joint articulation with the High Commissioner for Peace, with the Ministry of Defense, because there are many confined territories,” she adds. “Peace cannot mean anything other than recovering for these populations the possibility of rebuilding their life projects”, she emphasizes.

    Read Also:   The National Guard and constitutional fraud

    “The policy of total peace seeks that the High Commissioner for Peace, in those territories where there is armed conflict, dialogue with these groups,” explains Tobon Yagari with a leisurely tone. “The Unit for Victims works so that the State reaches these territories, articulated to care for these victims. So, one of the main issues also in this dialogue is that the situation really changes in those places, and the State can arrive”. It refers to a specific institutional offer that includes roads, health, education, housing or drinking water. “The need is so great that we are going to have to work on community models of cooperation for these same works as well”, he concedes.

    The director of the Victims Unit is part of the appointments that have broken the ceiling of indigenous power in Colombia. He joins Leonor Zalabata, an Arhuaco human rights defender from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, who is Colombia’s ambassador to the UN in New York, and the director of the Land Restitution Unit, Giovani Yule, from the community Cauca nasa. “The Truth Commission opened a very important space for participation and listening to ethnic groups,” Tobon Yagari values. “This also made it possible to make visible and generate public awareness that ethnic peoples are subjects of peacebuilding, that they have proposals and capacities to help build a different country.”

    here to the EL PAIS newsletter on Colombia and receive all the key information on the country’s current affairs.


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Latest Posts

    Read More

    Three people are trapped on the roof of a car in California | Video

    Posted at 15:51 ET (19:51 GMT) Tuesday, March 28,...

    Sheinbaum responds to Ebrard: “I’m not going to get into a debate because I don’t think it will help us”

    The head of Government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum,...

    Young people seek to “make visible” the situation in Nicaragua at the Summit for Democracy

    Saint Joseph - Young people from various Nicaraguan organizations...

    The U, the conservatives and the liberals postpone the health reform in Colombia

    The future of the health reform of the Government...