Book reviews, Human Rights, Latin America

Political Prisoner recounts his ‘Chronicles of the other Cell’

Following his arrest on 22nd May 2009, sociologist and university professor Miguel Ángel Beltrán was charged with recruiting for and collaborating with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).  The charges brought against Beltrán are based on alleged correspondence between the academic and the former FARC guerrilla leader Raúl Reyes, assassinated by Colombian military forces in 2008.

Prior to his arrest and subsequent incarceration for his alleged collaboration with the Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces (FARC), Miguel Ángel Beltrán held the post of professor at the Mexican campus of the Latin American School of Social Sciences (La Facultad de Ciencias Sociales: FLASCO).  It was here that he had previously gained his Master’s degree in Social Sciences, one of many academic achievements, further including a doctorate in Latin American Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (la Universidad Autónoma Nacional de México: UNAM).

Beltrán also gave lectures at the public universities of Cauca, Bogotá and Antioquia and in his youth was a member of the Patriotic Union, (Unión Patriótica: UP); a leftist Colombian political party which saw almost all of its members murdered during the 1980s.

Following news of his arrest, colleagues and friends of Beltrán Villegas from the UNAM and numerous Mexican academics alike, expressed their anger at the way in which the academic has been treated.

Beltrán’s defenders who, along with a large proportion of Colombian citizens, demonstrate distinct leftist tendencies and oppose traditionally established ideologies, insist that Beltrán is in fact a victim of framing – that he was imprisoned in order to silence his beliefs and accusations.  Ill-treated and incarcerated for over a year and a half, Beltrán’s case is yet to be settled by the Colombian justice system. During his time in prison, Beltrán has written a book entitled “Crónicas del otro Cambuche” (Chronicles of the other Cell), his first published work since he was detained in May 2009.

Beltrán was charged with crimes of rebellion and managing funds to finance terrorist activities.  Following Beltrán’s expulsion from Mexico and his subsequent arrest once he set foot on Colombian soil, the Colombian Public Prosecutor’s Office announced the existence of a connection between the accused and the FARC guerrilla leader Raúl Reyes – an accusation based on the findings of alleged email correspondence between the two men.  It was purported that these emails contained strategies aimed at recruiting young people into the guerrilla movement.

While General Gilberto Ramírez Calle, director of the Colombian Judicial Police, confirmed that 151 pieces of evidence have been gathered to substantiate the existence of a relationship between Beltrán and Raúl Reyes, Beltrán’s defence highlighted that said evidence, (found on a computer confiscated by the Colombian army following Reyes’ assassination), may have been tampered with in order to incriminate Beltrán.

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(Translated by Emma Hartgen –

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