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Pictured at right: Louann Guanson, Center for Global Nonviolence, Honolulu; Bernard LaFayette; Gov. Guillermo Gaviria and an unidentified woman on the peace march last spring.

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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116

Colombian governor and former
defense minister killed by FARC

The two had been kidnapped last year with URI’s Bernard LaFayette

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 7, 2003 -- Former Antioquia, Colombia governor Guillermo Gaviria and his former defense minister Gilberto Echeverri, held hostage by leftist guerrillas for the past year were killed in a military rescue attempt on Monday, May 5.

According to published reports, the two men and eight other captives were executed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as troops approached the rebel camp.
Gaviria and Esheverri were kidnapped last April along with University of Rhode Island’s Dr. Bernard LaFayette, distinguished scholar-in-residence and chair of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, while on a march to support the nonviolent efforts by the people of Caicedo.

LaFayette, a diabetic, was released several hours after his capture. For the past year, LaFayette has worked closely with Gaviria’s wife, Yolanda, and others to secure her husband’s release. She had returned to Rhode Island this past winter.

"I’m really saddened by this news from Colombian. The world, not just Colombia, has lost a great nonviolent leader. His dedication and commitment to a nonviolent way of life was similar to Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. " said LaFayette who left for Colombia today to attend the funeral. "I share the grief with Yolanda. We stand by her in this moment and with her in this struggle to build a nonviolent state in Antiquoia. In the nonviolence struggle we experience losses, but even in those losses there are unseen and immeasurable gains. This causes us to be more determined. The struggle will continue. Nonviolence requires a response and there will be a nonviolent response to this tragedy."

Some 3,000 people are taken hostage each year in Colombia, the majority by rebels demanding ransoms.

Knowing that he was putting himself in harm’s way Gaviria left a letter to the people of Antioquia before beginning the march. It reads in part: "To choose nonviolence does not mean merely saying NO to violence. If that were true, it would end up being confused with passive acceptance of one's own suffering or the suffering of another, or of abuses and injustices. Rather, it is a way of trying to overcome violence, seeking and finding ever more valid means to oppose injustice and inequities, without having to resort to the conventional use of brute force.

"Nonviolence rests upon moral principles that help us recognize acts of peace and coexistence, so that we may release their potential, while at the same time they can transform our people into a more just society. Nonviolence must not only denounce and disable all forms of direct violence, but also all manifestations of structural violence, since in this way we not only build peace through justice and solidarity, but also help to prevent future forms of violence, offering patterns and methods of peaceful struggle to those sectors of society that are most marginalized and victimized by the inequalities of power and the breakdowns of our system.

"… If I have been kidnapped, I wish for the nation to make no concessions of any kind in return for my liberation. The only means that should earn my freedom, the only reason I am willing to accept, is that my captors finally comprehend the inalienable right to liberty belonging to all human beings...If I am not captive, but have been killed, my spirit will be praying for the peace of Colombia."

In an e-mail to URI faculty members, President Robert L. Carothers remembered Gaviria: "Some of you will recall Guillermo and his wife from their visit to URI in 2001. They stayed then at the president's residence, and I will always recall cooking them breakfast one morning when there was a glitch in their itinerary. Guillermo was a man with a vision for peace in a land of violence, and his wife, Yolanda, was an able and courageous partner in that quest. During this past year she has committed herself to working for the goals set by her husband. She was here at URI in the winter on her way to the United Nations with Dr. Lafayette to seek assistance there. We always believed she would succeed in securing Guillermo's release. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with her and all those in Columbia who continue to work for peace."

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