For the 4th edition of the Graziadei Studio Legale Award for FOTOGRAFIA, Pietro Paolini, last year’s winner, has created a new project on the persecution of the Patriotic Union movement in Colombia between 1986 and 2006.
The Patriotic Union was founded in 1985 as part of peace negotiations between the Marxist-Leninist inspired rebel groups FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional) and President Belisario Betancur. The new movement stood for election in 1986 and won the greatest share of votes ever achieved by a left-wing party in Colombia. Nonetheless, between 1986 and 2006, two presidential candidates, eight congressmen, 13 state deputies, 70 councillors, 11 mayors and approximately 3,000 militants were assassinated by paramilitary groups and members of State security forces. What might have initially looked like a coincidence was progressively revealed to be a systematic persecution intended to eliminate the party and instil terror among its supporters. Many of the survivors and their families fled the country or hid in an attempt to escape the violence but in October 2015, the Patriotic Union stood for election again in various Departments, at great risk since 95% of the crimes committed between 1986 and 2006 have gone completely unpunished.
Pietro Paolini has tackled the most significant facts of this dramatic affair, reconstructing the stories of various cases of homicide, massacres, forced disappearance and exile filed with the Inter-American Court. Through different visual testimonies – put together by photographing the places where the events occurred, depicting landscapes and details, families and survivors, and collecting material obtained from the families themselves or public archives – Pietro Paolini has reconstructed the complex events, analysing their systematic and ferocious nature, and making every single affair humane and personal.