Between uncertainty and pain, Walter Garzón, father, comrade, protector of human rights, passed away today.

Today, September 12, 2016, our lives are once again full of pain. Walter Garzón, friend, comrade, protector of human rights, passed away in Bogotá, Colombia, after a restless struggle to find his daughter Carolina Garzón Ardila, disappeared on April 28, 2012, in Paluco, Monjas, in the city of Quito [Ecuador].

Since the disappearance of Carolina, Walter faced serious health issues, aggravated by the deep depression consuming his life by not knowing the location of her daughter Carolina Garzón. This morning, after some time admitted in the hospital, he passed away.

Walter Garzón got to Ecuador in May 2012 to look for her daughter, a young student, militant and dreamer of a better world, visiting Ecuador for the fourth time, who had disappeared on April 28th, still missing until today.

Carolina’s disappearance destroyed the Garzón Ardila family, and forced Walter to locate in Quito since 2012, with the only goal of knowing where Caro was, who took her, why.

1598 have passed, and so far, Walter and his family have not known about the location of her daughter. For almost two years, Walter visited the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General Office, the Ombudsman Office, the Presidency and several other State institutions to demand truth and justice. However, until today he has not found a positive answer by the State, and the painful uncertainty, intensified by the lack of response and the delayed investigation, by the State silence, undermined his life little by little.

During the investigation, the Attorney’s Office told Walter her daughter had drowned in the Machangara river; months later, and without one single proof to support that hypothesis, the State blamed the Garzón family for a”allowing her daughter to travel alone”, and blamed the victim by her disappearance. Today, 4 years later, the same State recognizes the policeman who was investigating her case was not competent, and made several mistakes and omissions. Today Carolina is still missing, and the incompetence of the State motivated Walter to look for her by his own means.

Walter pasting posters in the Paluco neighborhood, in Quito - August 4, 2012.
Walter pasting posters in the Paluco neighborhood, in Quito – August 4, 2012.

And Walter Garzón, the man of sincere smile, of fast steps, of strong words, of a caring heart, moved by the love to his daughter and by his deep solidarity, not only looked for his daughter, but was also able to unite and organize several families going through the same pain; while looking for her daughter, he took with him posters and contact information of the many disappeared ones in this country, and he kept on calling their families and tell them about his pain, gave them strength and asked them to join, to walk to together, to struggle together. That is how the Association of Relatives and Friends of Disappeared Persons in Ecuador [Asfadec] was born. That is how, in Ecuador, the voice of these families was heard and the major drama became visible.

Alba Ardila and Walter Garzón in Quito, diffusing Carolina's disappearance.
Alba Ardila and Walter Garzón in Quito, diffusing Carolina’s disappearance.

On Mondays, during the changing of presidential guard, Walter Garzón, together with the other families and Jaime Guevara, brave, decent, caring, started organizing guards in the Plaza Grande [Great Square]; they went to the media, installed posters, organized demonstrations. And, like this, with posters, pamphlets and flags, with robust voices through the megaphone, they denounced they were not all, the disappeared ones are missing for everyone, and the State obligation is to perform complete, diligent, effective investigations to guarantee truth and justice.

Walter Garzón in Radio Rayuela, talking about the major problem of disappearances in Ecuador.
Walter Garzón in Radio Rayuela, talking about the major problem of disappearances in Ecuador.

Their voices became stronger; they were no longer one or two, but dozens of people demanding justice in all the Ministries of the State. Their strong voices forced the President Rafael Correa to meet with them in Carondelet for the first time in December 11, 2013, 255 days after requesting an appointment.

Concentration in Guayaquil - October 20, 2012.
Concentration in Guayaquil – October 20, 2012.

That meeting restored the hopes of the families. However, the hope was soon killed; the lack of celerity and the inefficiency of the investigation; the intolerance of the State agents and the policemen responsible for the cases; the lack of specialized personnel; the lack of proper public policies, concrete and efficient, showed the disappearance of people was still a second order matter for the public and political agenda of the country.

And Walter, the man of sincere smile, of fast steps, of strong word and caring heart, began to get ill. The sadness slowly turned off his smile, made his steps slower, and several diseases appeared. He had to go back to Bogotá for medical assistance, as in Ecuador they told him they could not provide it. Alix Ardila, Carolina’s mother, arrived to Quito to continue looking for her.

Today, Walter left without knowing where his daughter was. Just like Luz, Carolina’s grandmother and Walter’s mother, who also died alone, without his son, without her granddaughter, without a truth. Today Alix Ardila comes back to Bogotá to bury the father of her daughter; she leaves with her eyes full of tears and a heart swelled by the fear. Today, the relatives and friends of the ones disappeared cry for Walter, and through their skins also passes the uncertainty of slowly turning off, like Walter, not knowing where are they, who took them, when will they come back home.

Carolina Garzón’s disappearance, the disappearance of the 1700 people who are still missing, represent traumatic experiences that delimitate a before and after in the life of their families, friends and affections. They imply “a deep wondering of the meaning of life and they become, many times, unspeakable. The victims do not find words to express themselves”. The stigma, the economic losses, the social disaggregation are just some of the consequences the victims have to face.

The Ecuadorian State has to respond for the lack of diligence on the search and investigation of Carolina Garzón; by the lack of a psychosocial approach to heal; by this impunity that undermined Walter’s life, our comrade, friend and protector of human rights.

In memory of Walter, because of the deep respect to his dignified, caring struggle; because of the love for Carolina, for love to all our disappeared ones, we will continue to struggle, making this visible, writing and validating what the power tries to deny, break and hide.


Originally published @

Translation: Sofía Ballack.