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an open letter from Sandra's family and friends

The friends and family of Sandra Viviana have written an open letter thanking those who have expressed solidarity with Sandra's plight. In the letter they highlight what they've been doing to try and locate her and renew their appeal for the authorities to keep up the search.

sandra v cuellaSantiago de Cali, March 4th, 2011

We, the parents, family members and friends of Sandra Viviana, wish to hereby manifest that we have been searching for her for over fifteen anguish-ridden days. We have searched streets, hospitals, morgues, inhospitable places, popular neighbourhoods; we have been to many places where we were told Sandra had been spotted, presuming she had been drugged and abandoned; we have reached slums forgotten by society, nameless places inhabited by beings who wander with their misery on their backs. No one knows of her. Her family members, friends, fellow students and professors, together with and thanks to the solidarity of the people of the entire city and the country, have spread out all of the efforts and resources available to us in order to search for her in many of Cali’s neighbourhoods, and in neighbouring towns such as Palmira, Buga, Yumbo, Florida, Pradera, Jamundí, Tulúa and Guacarí. We have distributed over twenty thousand flyers and posters, and as of ten days ago, we have set up an information tent near the site where Sandra was presumably attacked, and from where we have been collecting and distributing information relative to her disappearance.

We have carried out two marches in Cali calling for Sandra’s return, with a  great media deployment, and in Palmira we held a march from the Universidad Nacional to the down town area, searching for clues as to Sandra’s whereabouts. We have held cultural evenings in the tent, an Andes dance encounter, a theatre play, and many other cultural initiatives. Altogether, these give us an indication that there is a great sensitivity and citizen reaction. Ancestral religious activities, which are part of Sandra’s spiritual life, have joined in dance, prayer and chanting. The Catholic Church has also been involved in her search.

Multiple expressions of solidarity have arisen from virtual networks, involving a great diversity of individuals and of academic, cultural, youth, workers, women’s, Afro-Colombian and indigenous organisations. Human rights organisations have taken on the task of accompanying the search, and also respecting her family’s and friends decisions. The Media, with no exception, have informed and assumed with dedication the search process, and some entrepreneurs have also expressed their solidarity.

The Municipality of the city of Cali has offered a reward of 50 million pesos to anyone who provides information leading to her recovery and the Government of the Department of Valle has conceded its media mechanisms and has posted on its web page all of the pertinent information. Senators and representatives of several political parties of the region have also assisted the search efforts. The Ombudsman has proceeded to broadcast an early alert, and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner has received the information and is committed to following up on the situation. The Police Force’s hierarchy has met with the parents and are committed to the search.  

Although we recognise the efforts that many are undertaking, Sandra has yet to return. At present, with no advances regarding the investigation that could return Sandra to us, and after an anguished search, we feel that the inquiries have not been sufficient, revealing the need for the city and the country to dispose of more and better prepared and more qualified institutions, leading to conclusive results in this and in other disappearance cases. This search is questioning the forced disappearances in our country, such as is evidenced by Amnesty International’s alert, the letter of six European Parliaments to the President of the Republic, and the communications from the President of Costa Rica to President Santos, inquiring into Sandra’s case.

We wish to thank the organisations and individuals who have respected the wishes of her parents, family members and friends, and whom have brought out Sandra’s spiritual, artistic, cultural and professional values. But, without a doubt, what has to be recognised about her, above all, is her spirit of solidarity and her commitment to environmental and social justice, a vocation that has lead her to push for the protection of the Río Cauca wetlands and to promote causes such as, agro-ecological practices, farmers markets, cultural and judicial processes, the protection of water as a public good and the rain forests as vital biological and cultural spaces. There is no doubt that Sandra Viviana is a very valuable woman to her family, to society and to the environment. 

Her parents, her brother, her aunts and uncles, her cousins, her grandparents, colleagues and friends, demand from the governments of the city, the region and the country, as those responsible for the safety of its citisens, an appropriate and prompt reaction that will allow for the return of Sandra to society and to her family. Seeing the State’s weakness to protect the well-being, integrity and life of all Colombians, we invite the International entities of human rights, those governments respectful of life, the multilateral institutions and the social and environmental organisations, networks and movements that they may add to their agenda Sandra Viviana’s life as a symbol of respect for life , sustainability and human rights.

We wish to thank the local, national and International organisations that are supporting us and whom have honestly shown their solidarity with our pain given the manner in which Sandra Viviana was taken from us, and we ask that they farther their support and actions that will lead to her immediate return. We are searching for Sandra, so please help us to unite efforts that will lead us to finding her.

In order to support the activities favouring Sandra’s return, we have created a mail address so that all information and initiatives regarding the search can be sent there, as well as for those interested in making direct contact with her family and friends, given we are the ones directly responsible for the information and relations with the institutions and authorities and for the concrete activities involved in her search. The email address is buscandoasandra@gmail.com

We ask that you please translate this letter to every possible language, and that you send your own letters to the Colombian authorities and the embassies of Colombia in your countries, sending us a copy of said letters.

Sincerely,

Parents, Family Members and Friends

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