Chronicle Of Objector Andres Daniel Giraldo and his liberation (2006)

Departing at 21:00 from Bogota on the bus fleet Rápico Ochoa bound for Medellin, the bus was held up at 12.45 a.m. by the National Armed Forces of the Municipality of Guaduas, Cundianamarca. We were held up on the motorway till 1.55 a.m. and later the army allowed us to rest at the Guadua Infantry Battalion, by which time it was 2:11 am, the very time one starts to imagine what may happen. There were 13 youths in the hangar where everyone was amusing themselves on their mobiles or joking around. I conveyed my position as Conscientious Objector to lieutenant Gómez.

Inspection at 5:20 a.m., lights on, off to wash our mouths and ready for line formation with Quintero and waiting to be taken to Facatativa. Breakfast of fried cornmeal cake with chocolate, and, indeed a day full of surprises that Lieutenant Gomez had in store, from a ball for footy, domino, ping pong rackets, decks of cards and continuous company, full of laughter and cold humour of military nature, with comments such as "conscientious objector, stay calm mate, you'll soon forget about all of that when you grab a rifle and watch the cartridges falling, now that's what I call exciting". Laughs from everyone and when they were imaging me without earrings and in camouflage they laugh more.

At 8:30 a.m. they took out their cones and gear for motorway control, returning at approximately 12:30 p.m., with 15 youngsters plus the battalion, we played a game of football, they told stories about the Army and how good it was, of new policies, of the treatment within the institution, and so on. Among the young men, there were 3 from La Paz, 2 from Huilences, 2 from Bogota, one indigenous reinserted in the forces, and there were 21 from different parts of the Atlantic Coast, namely Valledupar, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Sincelejo).

At the time we had to climb onto the truck, there were 23, as the situation had been sorted itself out for 5 of them. The case of one of these was quite nice, that of Tiberio Osorio, a 22-year old young man from the Unión de Antioquia, having only completed 3 years at primary school, was very frightened, as it was the first time y had left his village, he had come from Bogota to work in a shop with his cousins. He would say "not sure if I will get used to it because in such big cities you are a nobody, at least in my village, people know you and if you're bored, then I get to work on my strawberries and potatoes and amuse myself, whereas in a big city, what do you do?" Anyone who saw his hands could recognise his trade, as Don Juan Matus' facts talk for themselves, which is what Tiberio Osorio reflected so the lieutenant let him go.

At 2:15p.m. a truck arrived to pick us up bound for Facativa. On the way, people were getting settled, telling jokes, we speculated about everything, how we would look in uniform, we worked on declarations that would prove that we were not suitable to enter the military service, such as: I have flat feet; I suffer from asthma; that one had attacks; a broken hand; and so on, a thousand white lies in order to evade the military service, we did this also to kill time while on the road in the truck.

We arrived at Infantry Battalion number 38, Miguel Antonio Caro at 4:30 p.m., we got in line and the usual inspection of the pile of identity cards, which incidentally were not confiscated at the time we were detained. I'd like to clarify that I was never made to form with the others, from the first moment we arrived in Facativa, a sergeant called me over, he asked me where I was from and told me to stick by him. Frankly, he treated me very well, he had me accompany him the whole time as if I were his great friend, he would tell me stories and he would ask me things. The funny thing was that he seemed motivated by my stories about traditional Indigenous Medicines, that was the area he wanted to explore, on one of his rounds he presented me to his colleagues who immediately said: this young man must be suitable for the service, he's the right size – the sergeant's reply was amusing: no this young man cannot stay, because he consumes medicine.

When the Major arrived to question people on the reasons for not doing their military service, it was a good opportunity for me to put across my declaration as Conscientious Objector, as I am certain that many young people have never hear anything of the sort, nor did they believe that it was possible, or better still, to be released, as I was without further examination, nor any other problems, the only thing he asked me was to present a signed and sealed written declaration. Four of us were released, all we had to do was to confirm the information in the district, which the others did as their payment receipt was in process, as for me, I had nothing to confirm, therefore, I was free to go.

I left the battalion at 5:50 p.m. accompanied by Sergeant Pena, who I asked if he could give me some document so that they would not detain me again on the way, bearing in mind also that I had already lost $35.000 cost of the fare), but he said, don't worry mate, they won't stop you, but should they do so, take my mobile number and call me immediately.

I was surprised at the treatment I got, I thought that they may have received some internal communication and that was why they were so amicable, but that was impossible due to how late it was in the day. One of the conclusions I arrived at was that I tried to talk to them a lot about the legal aspect of it, quoting many articles and laws, and also, I always sustained that I did not agree with military structure in general, regardless of where it came from and that weapons was not the way to reconstruct a community; they may have questioned this themselves and it may have given me a bit of character.

None of the youngsters wanted to do their military service, but they all gave excuses and none came forward when the Major asked who wanted to be in the National Columbian Army. That must have enraged him. The remaining 17 youngsters had to proceed to take medical exams and wait to receive a final verdict.

Andrés Daniel Giraldo

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