Rag doll

Rag doll, clay duck: memories of kidnapping victims in Colombia

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Kidnapped by FARC guerrillas in 2007 and held in the Colombian jungle for nearly four years, Police Major Guillermo Solorzano found solace and company in a doll he fashioned from rags and named Rodolfito.

Rodolfito is now part of a virtual exhibit of seemingly mundane objects that have brought comfort to hostages and their loved ones during the long years of separation.

The exhibition is an initiative of the Colombian Truth Commission which investigates the most heinous crimes committed during decades of armed conflict in which more than 37,000 people were abducted.

Most were held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which was Latin America’s most powerful insurgency until a peace deal was struck with the government in 2016. The FARC has since transformed. into a political movement with the same acronym but a different name.

Here is the story of three objects from the vast collection of clothing, jewelry, newspaper clippings, photos and other personal effects.

– ‘Rodolfito’ –

“It was a figurine, a doll that I made there and that made me feel alive, as if I had company,” Solorzano told AFP, describing his soldier doll Rodolfito.

The raw rag creation is made of military fatigues, with arms and legs ending in stumps, and facial features, pockets and other drawn details.

Rodolfito, who even has a hat, gave him something to “socialize” with, Solorzano said.

“It got me out of this trance, this deep depression that I was in.”

Solorzano was captured in southwestern Colombia on June 4, 2007. He was part of a group held by the FARC to interact with guerrillas held in Colombia and the United States.

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After nearly four years in captivity, the police major was finally handed over to a humanitarian commission.

Former FARC commanders admitted to having kidnapped and asked for forgiveness before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) of Colombia, set up to try the worst crimes committed during the conflict.

The court is expected to hand down its first sentences in early 2022.

Under the peace agreement, ex-rebels or soldiers who appear before the JEP would be sentenced to alternative sentences to prison if they confess their crimes, compensate victims and swear violence.

– Death in life –

Adriana Tafur was 20 years old when she was kidnapped by the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) on May 30, 1999, while attending Sunday mass in the town of Cali, in the southwest of Colombia.

His crutch for five and a half months in captivity in the jungle kept a journal.

“I realize that my life has changed completely,” reads an entry she made on the eve of her release.

“To be taken hostage … is to be dead in life,” she told AFP of the experience. The newspaper was his only “therapy”.

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“Once a year I read the newspaper and there are things that make me think, ‘Is it real, I’ve been there? said Tafur, who feels aggrieved that there has been no “justice” in her case.

Colombian President Ivan Duque ended negotiations in 2019 with the ELN, the only guerrilla force still active in Colombia.

the country the rebel movement ELN

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He called off the talks. 22 police cadets were killed in a car bomb attack claimed by the ELN.

Tafur has never had the chance to confront her former captors and says she is still waiting for a formal process to acknowledge her suffering.

– Clay duck –

Juliana Orozco was eight years old when the FARC kidnapped her father, departmental lawmaker Nacianceno Orozco, in Cali on April 11, 2002.

Five years later, he was killed along with ten colleagues while still in captivity.

A former FARC commander accepted responsibility for the crime before the JEP.

Orozco’s contribution to the exhibit includes a pre-Columbian clay duck-like figurine from her father’s collection – a keepsake to replace the real memories she was never able to make with him.

Some of those who testified before the JEP showed “not the slightest sense of awareness” of the damage done to those left behind, Orozco said.

Kidnappings continued in Colombia, which is experiencing its worst outbreak of violence since the 2016 peace agreement.

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In 2000, at the height of the conflict, the police recorded ten kidnappings per day in Colombia. In 2019, they were 88.

Armed groups – including ELN and FARC dissidents who refused to sign the peace pact – are taking hostages for political influence and ransom.