Hope over Fear - Colombia's struggle for peace - PhMuseum

Hope over Fear - Colombia's struggle for peace

Mads Nissen

2016 - Ongoing

Colombia

In 2016 the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla movement signed a peace agreement that put an end to more then 50 years of civil war, a war that has claimed 220,000 lives and displaced nearly six million Colombians in a country suffering from extreme inequality, land appropriation, cocaine production and political violence.

These images were taken in the autumn of 2016, just after a narrow majority of Colombians rejected a peace accord in a plebiscite, jeopardising the entire peace process and leaving the country in limbo.

Shortly after the the 'No' vote, however, President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and went back to work, trying to maintain the momentum. In under two months he landed a new deal and finally, after decades of war, Colombia is moving toward peace.

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  • President Santos is briefed on the security situation on the ground by General Maldonado during a flight to Norte Santander, one of the areas most affected by the armed conflict. The President is travelling the country to rally support for a new peace deal. On this trip he is encouraging farmers to change their crops from coca, which is used to make cocaine, to cacao.

  • Dimas Banuera, 62, a fisherman with the neckless of Jesus Christ that he got as a presence from his daughter.

    The slum area Puente Nayero in Buenaventura is home to more than 1200 families of which an estimate of 95% have been forcibly displaced from their original homes due to the conflict. With nearly six million displaced people, Colombia is one of the countries with most displacements in the world.

  • The slum area Puente Nayero in Buenaventura is home to more than 1200 families of which an estimate of 95% have been forcibly displaced from their original homes due to the conflict. Due to it’s strategic location as a major port, few other places in Colombia has suffered more during the 52-years of conflict. Currently the slum areas are dominated by paramilitary gangs who extort and oppress the local population.

  • Crime scene in Bogota. A taxidriver was murdered in cold blood. The murder is assumed to be an act of "ajuste de cuentas" - a violente street justice - in this case a punishment to a young man by killing his father the taxidriver.

  • Sharid Popayan (1 year old) with her mother Nasly Martinez, 19, at the funeral of her father.

    On 4 November 2016 Alvaro Steven (20) was shot four times at close range. The murder is assumed to be an act of "ajuste de cuentas" - street justice, in revenge for something he did in the past.

    The violence of a civil war is rarely contained between men in uniform. It tends to spread throughout society.

    From “La Violencia” in the 1950s until today where human rights abuses have been committed by all sides in the conflict.

    The peace accord recognizes the social issues behind the conflict and tries to address some of them. In addition to the FARC putting down their weapons the clear aim is to be able to achieve security, justice and economic growth for the impoverished population. Only a solution to these issues can break the cycle of violence.

  • The city of Medellín.

  • Coca-collectors posing for a portrait. From left: Yorley Muñoz, 16 years, Sebastian Moreno, 21, Adan Alberto Hernandez Moreno, 15, Ariel Albeiro Muñoz, 19 and Fray Muñoz Areiza, 16.

    The harvest of coca-leafs for cocaine-production. The work starts at 5am in the morning, and during a working day a person collects two sacks of approximately 70 kilos each for which he is paid 24.000 pesos – about twice as much as if he picks coffee or works in a farm.

  • Andrés - the owner of this cocaine-laboratorium is emptying some barrels with leftover leafs and gasoline.

    According to the people working in this laboratorium it will take 600 kilos of coca-leafs to produce 1 kilo of cocaine-base which is sold for 2.5 million pesos.

  • One kilo of cocaine base is shown to the camera at a secret cocaine laboratory. On the floor, more cocaine is being prepared from a ton of coca leaves soaking in a toxic mixture of diesel, ammonia, caustic soda and other chemicals.

    Andrés, the owner of the laboratory, explains: "I know that this kills a lot of people every day. But around here, there’s really no other alternative than to growing it. It’s our income and the only economic opportunity we have right now. We just have to do it.“

    Following the peace accord, Andrés plans to change his illegal operation into legal crops such as coffee, banana and cacao.

  • Colombia has one of the highest numbers of landmine in the world with more than 11,000 victims registered since 1990.

    As part of the peace talks a highly unusual de-mining pilot project is taking place in a remote mountain area that was heavily mined during the conflict.

    The same FARC fighters who placed Anti-Personnel Mines (APMs) and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in this area are now sharing their knowledge with the de-mining team from the national army, like Chaparro here. The process is long and extremely dangerous and each small plot has to be cleared one small part at a time. The work has already claimed the life of one deminer.

  • Colombia has one of the highest numbers of landmine in the world with more than 11,000 victims registered since 1990.

    As part of the peace talks a highly unusual de-mining pilot project is taking place in a remote mountain area that was heavily mined during the conflict.

    The same FARC fighters who placed Anti-Personnel Mines (APMs) and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in this area are now sharing their knowledge with the de-mining team from the national army.

  • Alexandra Mazo, 12, with her cellphone on her way down the mountain after finishing school.

    Daily life in the remote mountain village of Pueblo Nuevo, an area that has been highly affected by the armed conflict and direct combat between the national army and the FARC-guerilla due to it's strategic location and the intensive production on coca-crops on the surrounding hillsides. The area is now dominated by FARC.

  • FARC guerilla Tatiaya Saens, 23, showing her AK47. She was born in the poor countryside where the guerilla had a strong presence, and joined the ranks as age 10. By joining the guerilla she eyed an opportunity for a better and more secure future, she says.

  • Inside the hidden FARC guerrilla camp of Frente 51. David Espína (23) with his lover Andrí Rivera (31). The two have only recently got together.

  • Inside the hidden FARC guerrilla camp of Frente 51. The group lines up in formation in the evening, lead by Esteban Pardo (38) who has been with the FARC for the past 14 years. “Come and see the last guerrillas” he said before the group gathered. Soon they will move into UN-controlled camps, turn in their weapons and start an enrolment programme into civil life.

  • Inside the hidden FARC-guerilla camp of Frente 51. FARC-guerilla soldiers taking baths and during their laundry in a river that runs through the dense jungle where the camp is located.

  • Lying on a table, FARC-guerrilla Sebastian, 28, is biding his time in the company of his comrades during the ceasefire. The men have all been FARC members for years and are used to a simple life in makeshift camps hidden in the jungle, constantly alert and ready for attacks by government troops. Since the ceasefire, things have become more relaxed and they can enjoy a taste of modern life like this makeshift cinema, complete with a set of speakers, a screen and a projector – all powered by a generator. Such luxuries where impossible before.

  • After having lived their entire adult life in hiding, frequently in battle with government forces, Daniela (32), Yuli (26) and Nancy (30) can finally replace their camouflage uniforms with vivid colors.

    Many FARC guerrillas are recruited at an early age and can loose the connection with their families. The comrades become their new family and often their lovers. Nearly half of the 7,000 to 8,000 FARC guerrillas are women. Soon the structure of the FARC movement will change dramatically. Some will return to their villages while other will stay together in groups when they return to civilian life.

  • A fashion shoot of a local brand 'Hunters Project Agency' in a wealthy neighborhood in the North of Bogota. -The model Astrid Sanchez Pinada is holding a plastic AK47 in her hand. "Fashion mirror what’s happening in the world, our country and in our streets." The fashion photographer explains, when asked about why they use the violent symbol.

  • On Plaza de Bolívar, the main square in the capital of Bogota, peace activists have been organising daily activities after the peace deal was rejected.

    A demonstration with several thousands participants, mostly young people, raise their concern for more violence and their urgent support for a peace deal.


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