How reassessing the Stasi past can help Colombia

Jael Quiroga Carrillo & Luz Stella Aponte Jaramillo
© Goethe-Institut e.V.

Jael Quiroga Carrillo, Director of the Colombian human rights organisation REINICIAR, has a dream for her country. REINICIAR attorney Luz Stella Aponte Jaramillo compares Germans and Colombians. The two women were awarded the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights 2014.

To wake up one morning and find that nobody in Colombia was a victim of human rights violations and that the war was over. For me, that would be the most wonderful thing! All the former soldiers could simply join political parties in a pluralist democracy like in Germany, where everyone can be actively involved without risking their lives. 
The armed conflict in Colombia has been going on for 50 years. Ten million victims demand justice. Not necessarily the punishment of those responsible, but above all social justice. Many people who suffered on account of this violence are impoverished. They need a perspective and reforms that give the victims and the country a future. 
I was greatly surprised by the statements of the Director of the Stasi Research and Memorial Site. When I asked him what he thought of the human rights violations in the GDR and the collapse of the system, he said that the situation of the victims today is relatively good because they now have rights. After all, the most important thing is to live in a true democracy. It is no use just finding and punishing those who were responsible. 


Luz Stella Aponte Jaramillo on her travel experiences.
Both in your work and on this tour, you address the question of how the past can be assessed. Is it possible to make a comparison between Germany and Colombia here?  
The history of the two countries is very different, of course, as is the way in which we view war. The war that Germany waged for many years was visible to all. In our country, instead, there is an armed conflict that has been going on for 50 years – and yet many people are still unaware of it. The war has become such a part of everyday life.
What can we learn from one another?
Above all, what Colombians can learn from the Germans is how to strengthen democratic institutions. And something Germans could perhaps emulate from us is a bit more solidarity. In spite of all the difficulties, there is an incredible sense of fraternity in our country.  
What surprised you most on your trip to Germany? 
Films at the cinema always gave us the impression that the Germans are a very serious people. That is basically true. But the conversation partners we met and got to know a little better were not only wonderful people who were very open - they also had a great sense of humour.