On the Ground in Bogota, Colombia | Sojourners

On the Ground in Bogota, Colombia

Name: Hector Hernan Mondragon-Baez
Church: Teusaquillo Mennonite Church
Résumé: Human rights worker for 35 years; homeless family advocate at Pro-Shelter Center, 1974; International Labor Organization, 1980; consultant to Colombian Congress, 1991; representative to the Indigenous Territories Commission, 1996; Oak Human Rights Fellow at Colby College in Maine, 2000.

Hector Mondragon's hands tremble as he reads the morning paper. He jumps when someone comes too quickly out of the kitchen. His piercing, gray-green eyes are bloodshot and constantly shifting. He has a contagious smile. "If you see me tremble," he says, "it's not because I'm nervous, it's because I was tortured when I was 23" [by a general who graduated from the U.S. Army's School of the Americas]. In 1996, death threats forced Mondragon's wife and children into exile in Spain. In 1999, Mondragon's name appeared on a hit list distributed on the streets of Bogota. He has lived underground since that time.

"My work is not secret, but I always have to speak as I am today, somewhat covertly. To create a routine is to commit suicide. I have to make my appointments on short notice and only with people who are trustworthy. I don't sleep in the same bed two nights in a row. I used to teach Sunday school, but now I can't attend church any more. For the past two years, the government and paramilitaries are daily trying to figure out how to kill me.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2001
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