Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Free at last!

Dear friends,

My friend Flor Diaz was released from the Arauca City prison last month and was finally able to return to her home here in Arauquita. We went out on the Arauca River with her youngest children, Viviana and Fernando, on March 10 to watch the herons returning to roost for the evening. There were hundreds of herons in the trees along the river and it was wonderful to enjoy that beauty and freedom with her.

Flor spent three years and four days in prison for “rebellion.” She was the secretary general of the Arauca Peasant Association and she told me that she was imprisoned because of her work in support of human rights. “I can’t ignore the suffering of others,” she said.

Marcela, her oldest daughter, was 18 years old when Flor was detained by the secret police on February 14, 2006. Marcela had to assume the responsibility for her three siblings: Viviana (who was just 8 years old), Fernando and Edwin. “It was very hard when they would call me and tell me there wasn’t any food in the house,” Flor said. “I would ask myself, ‘What can I do?’”

Flor worked for 14 years as a health practitioner in the rural communities of Arauca and also served as a catechist. She continued with her vocations while she was in prison. She would care for the other prisoners when they were ill, and she also helped organize prayer and mass.

“Suffering makes you strong,” Flor said. “If you’ve never suffered, you can’t be strong. I would get very disappointed when I received bad news about my case. I would argue with God: ‘You abandoned me! I don’t want anything more to do with you!’ But then I would remember the gift of my children.”

Flor’s first grandchild, Camila, was born on December 20, 2006. “I saw her for the first time on January 21, 2007,” said Flor. Marcela would take Camila to visit Flor in prison every three months. “For the first two years of her life, ‘Grandmother’s house’ was the largest mansion in Arauca,” Marcela said jokingly.

Being in prison for three years was a very hard experience but it’s also an adjustment being outside of prison after all that time. “I couldn’t see long distance,” Flor said, because there aren’t any open views in the prison. “I also wasn’t used to the noise in town. All I heard in my cell was the sound of the fan.”

Flor told me about a conversation she had recently with a fellow prisoner who had also just been released. They talked about the process of adjustment. Flor said to him, “I’m not doing well either (she’s unemployed and in debt), but I am free.”

As we were alongside the river, Flor explained “Oil and war are the cause of poverty here. What do we get from supplying the war machine?: widows and poverty. We’re going to stop supplying that machine. It already has enough. Let’s look at the situation of poverty and invest that money to meet the needs of the people.”

In love and solidarity,



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