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22 August 2011 | |

In our hearts

Interview with father of Colombian activist disappeared six months ago

Download: MP3 (4.6 Mb)

August 17 marked six months since the disappearance of Sandra Viviana Cuellar in Colombia. She was a professor and environmental activist. Her family and friends remember her. Real World Radio interviewed her father, Dumar Cuellar.

Sandra, a 26 year-old environmental engineer and professor went missing on February 17 in the outskirts of Cali (in Valle del Cauca Department), Colombia, where she was supposed to take the bus to Palmira town to give lessons at the National University. Her I.D. And cell phone were found two days later close to where she disappeared.

Sandra was part of the struggle for water, for the protection of basins and wetlands. She was also dedicated to defending the equal participation of local communities in the use and management of genetic resources, against the appropriation of these goods by external actors. Sandra was also devoted to her spiritual training.

Dumar Cuellar said that his struggle was part of the struggle of people and social organizations that demand memory and justice in a country where tens of thousands of people are disappeared. Sandra’s father said he is hopeful that her daughter will be found and said he had no hard feelings towards her “captors”.

After six months since Sandra’s disappearance, her friends circulated information about her case last week. There was a meeting at Cali’s Memorial Hall where people and groups who fight for truth, memory and justice coordinated actions ahead of August 30, the International Day of the Detained- Disappeared.

“There are nearly 57,000 people disappeared in Colombia. It is a very serious problem and we are trying to raise awareness about it so that a solution is provided or at least this terrible practice is stopped”, said Dumar.

Sandra’s father expressed his support to the people who approach him every day to know about her daughter’s case. He says that gives him strength to continue his search, “more than the legal action of the country’s authorities, which is very slow”. Dumar is quite disappointed in the state’s work in Sandra’s search. “Very little is achieved”, he said. The authorities “have done their job but they do not dare have a hypothesis that will lead to any guilty person. At this point there is no information to take the case to court”.

Dumar said that the Organization of American States issued precautionary measures on Sandra’s case so that the Colombian state will do everything in its power to protect her and investigate her case.

He estimates it is plausible that Sandra’s disappearance was meant to stop her environmental and social struggle. “I think that because of the social role played by Sandra, there might be union and state interests involved in her case”.

He mentioned some of the organizations that have shown more solidarity with Sandra’s disappearance such as “trade union groups, sugar cane cutters, rural indigenous groups and human rights organizations”.

Sandra’s father does not lose hope that this will have a happy ending. “We also urge the captors so that somehow Sandra will come to us without retaliation”, concluded Dumar.

Photo: http://www.valledelcauca.gov.co

(CC) 2011 Real World Radio


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