June 24, 2016 at 1:44 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Agreement to end Colombian war acknowledges LGBT victims

Wilson Castañera Castro, Cuba, gay news, Washington Blade

Wilson Castañeda , on right, took part in peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in Havana in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Wilson Castañeda Castro/Caribe Afirmativo)

The cease-fire agreement that representatives of the Colombian government and a rebel group signed on Thursday to end a decades-long war acknowledges its LGBT victims.

“The end of the conflict constitutes the best opportunity to guarantee the victims’ rights to truth, justice, recovery…and to ensure the full guarantee of human rights for everyone,” reads the agreement; which specifically lists the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community among the groups impacted by the conflict.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Rodrigo Londoño, commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia who uses the nickname Timoshenko, shook hands after their respective lead negotiators signed the agreement during a ceremony in Havana over which Cuban President Raúl Castro presided. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Dominican President Danilo Medina and officials from the U.S., Norway and other countries were also in attendance.

The agreement, among other things, would create a truth and reconciliation commission with representatives of the Colombian government and FARC. It also calls for the inclusion of the LGBT community, farmers, indigenous people, Colombians of African descent and other “vulnerable” groups in the country’s political process.

“It is the duty of the Colombian state to promote, protect, respect and guarantee human rights, including economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, with a differential and gendered approach based on the principles of equality and progressive thought and to guarantee the right to peace, especially in the areas most affected by the conflict,” reads the deal.

“For its part, the FARC-EP (Popular Army) reiterated its unqualified commitment to human rights,” it adds. “Its members, and as an organization, commit to promoting and respecting the individual freedoms and human rights of everyone and a peaceful coexistence in its territories as it transitions to a legal political life.”

The Associated Press reported that Santos said the peace agreement could be finalized as early as next month.

Agreement ‘opportunity to build a new country’

More than 200,000 people have died in the war that began in 1962.

Members of the FARC, paramilitaries and the Colombian army frequently targeted, displaced or even killed LGBT people during the decades-long conflict. A 2011 law that Santos signed as a way to compensate landowners in the South American country who lost their land during the war specifically acknowledges LGBT victims.

Peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC began in Havana in 2012.

Wilson Castañeda, director of Caribe Afirmativo, a Colombian LGBT group, was among the six human rights activists who participated in a meeting between representatives of the Colombian government and FARC that took place in 2015. Castañeda on Thursday described the agreement to the Washington Blade as “an opportunity to build a new country” during a Skype interview from the Colombian city of Barranquilla.

“It is a historic day,” he said. “There were 52 years of war. Our generations were born during an armed conflict and we feel that for the first time, today, June 23, we are waking up to a day with the promise of peace.”

Colombia Diversa, another LGBT advocacy group in the South American country, used Twitter hashtags that read, “Goodbye to war” and, “Yes to peace” to celebrate the agreement.

“We hope that the surrender of weapons will be an opportunity to transform structures of discrimination against LGBT people,” wrote Colombia Diversa on its Twitter page.

Angélica Lozano, a former member of the Bogotá City Council who is the first openly LGBT person elected to the Colombian Congress, was among those who attended the signing ceremony in Havana.

The lawmaker once advised Íngrid Betancourt, who was kidnapped by FARC members in 2002 during her presidential campaign. Lozano told the Blade during a 2013 interview in the Colombian capital of Bogotá that any peace agreement between her country’s government and the rebel group should hold those responsible for “atrocities” and recognize people who were forcibly displaced from their homes or tortured.

“As a society we will live collectively through the complex process of reconciliation, recognizing each other as people and citizens,” tweeted Lozano on Thursday.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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