16 years of the attack at Club El Nogal in Bogotá

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On February 7, 2003, an attack attributed to the FARC took the lives of 36 people and left more than 200 injured in the Colombian capital

16 years of the attack at Club El Nogal in Bogotá

200 kilos of dynamite exploded from a car that had entered El Nogal Club that day, one of the most luxurious in the capital. The fact, that later was adjudged to the extinct guerilla FARC-EP, occurred in the north of the city, a place where war did not frequently arrive.

Leer en español: 16 años del atentado en el Club El Nogal en Bogotá

Prior to the attack, this guerrilla had issued a statement, according to La Fm, "in which they accused the establishments located in the north of Bogota of being related to paramilitaries, including the Club ." It was for this reason that the State blamed this guerrilla for the attack, although they initially rejected it and denied it.

However, years later, and in the face of the negotiation that took place between the FARC and the Government, from 2012 to 2016, the guerrilla group accepted the blame. It was also learned that the intellectual author of this action was alias 'El Paisa', whose whereabouts are currently unknown.

This event, which had great impact since it was carried out in the middle of the city, was the first one dealt with in the Special Justice for Peace (JEP, in Spanish). In the words of Carlos Antonio Lozada, leader of the FARC political party, in an interview with El Espectador, "it was a big mistake. This terrorist act was the biggest mistake the FARC had in their 53 years of life. "

Eight years after the attack, Herminsul Arellán, one of the authors, was arrested and sentenced to 40 years in prison. However, in May 2017, under the JEP, he was released. According to El Espectador, attorney Francisco Bernate said that he "accepted the Special Justice for Peace. He did not obtain forgivness for the crime, because he fulfilled the requirements and paid the maximum penalty that the JEP has."

The current debate

Today, 16 years after the event, this chapter that caused pain to hundreds of Colombian families has not yet been closed.

After years of the tragedy, the former guerrilla group apologized to the victims and are in the process of vindication. However, there are still years ahead in which this will continue to be a matter of debate, because months ago the Council of State ruled against the State, accusing it of not having acted properly. The foregoing, because, according to the ruling, the State was able to avoid the act because it was premeditated and announced.

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The ruling, which fails against the Ministry of Justice, Defense, DAS, and the Prosecutor, says that, from the previous announcements of the Farc, where it mentioned the Club and ministers of the time as Fernando Londoño and Marta Lucía Ramírez , "The adoption of precautions superior to those used in the headquarters of the ministries and even in the Casa de Nariño for partners and visitors was to be expected".

In addition, according to La Fm, the president of the Council of State, Germán Bula, said that "the Prosecutor's Office and the DAS did not soon process and verify information that had been received about the imminence of an attack that specifically pointed to El Nogal Club".

In December 2018, the State questioned this decision, with the main argument that "this ruling contradicts previous decisions of the State Council on terrorist attacks and warns that it is the responsibility of the Nation when those attacks occur against officials or public entities", according to Caracol Radio.

Likewise, President Iván Duque said, when he heard about this ruling against the State, that "what we want is that the State does not end up paying with taxes the terrorist acts of other people."

Before vs. now

The attack happened 6 months after Álvaro Uribe assumed as president, a leader who had promised since his campaign not to let any guerrilla act pass. That's how it went. After this attack, a persecution began that ended up weakening the FARC and what was known as the "democratic security" characteristic of this former president.

11 years after the bomb, the government of Juan Manuel Santos began a process of dialogue with the guerrillas that had perpetuated this act, which culminated in a peace agreement that is now beginning to be implemented. The dialogues ended the FARC as a guerrilla and allowed the emergence of the FARC as a political party.

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This year, 2019, when the presidential term of Álvaro Uribe's party candidate, Iván Duque, had been less than 6 months in office, Bogotá experienced another attack of the same style. A car loaded with dynamite exploded in the Santander General School on January 17, causing a similar number of victims that the attack on El Nogal Club (21 dead and almost 200 injured).

Although this act was not perpetuated by the guerrillas themselves, it was a sign that the war in Colombia, despite the peace agreement with the FARC, continues to spread to the cities. The ELN, the authors of this latest event, is now one of the challenges facing the new Government in its beginnings, as it happened 16 years ago in the Government of Álvaro Uribe.


LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez
Translated from "16 años del ataque al club El Nogal en Bogotá"