Sebastian Marroquin (Argentina)

“The fact that the sons of two former arch enemies are now friends is really what gives me the most hope”

Sebastian Marroquin is the son of the infamous Colombian drug baron, Pablo Escobar, who, at the height of his career controlled 80% of the global cocaine market. In 1993 Escobar was killed in a gunfight with Colombian police. Exiled in Argentina, Sebastian has spent his adult life carving an alternative path and, in a bid to break the cycle of retribution, has begun the slow process of seeking forgiveness for the crimes of his father by contacting some of the families of his father’s victims. Argentinian filmmaker, Nicolas Entel, documented a number of these encounters in the film, Pecados de mi Padre (Sins of my Father )

My father was like any other father – the only thing he didn’t do was get up early for work. When you’re very young you don’t know exactly what it is your father does for a living but as I got older I started noticing that he was in the news a lot, that my freedom was restricted and that I couldn’t lead a normal life. All this made me curious.

I always received a lot of love from my father and a good education too. He was a man who instilled in me decent values even though outside the house he didn’t honour them – but he never expected me to follow in his footsteps.

He was a man who found many excuses for using violence, whereas I have never believed in violence as a way of solving conflicts. The only thing that violence does is aggravate the problem. I have always felt that the solution should be through reconciliation, apology and frank discussion. There is a need to invest in the culture of ‘forgiveness’ and I have a lot of faith that the Colombian people are open to reconciliation.

Many people who once considered me a threat, realise now that in the twenty years since my father’s death, I never wanted to take over his drug business, nor to seek revenge, even though at the time of his death I did initially react violently. I quickly realised, however, that this was crazy because to take revenge would not make me feel better or bring my father back. I would have continued along that destructive path and ended up with absolutely nothing.

The documentary – ‘Sins of my Father’ – took five years to conceive. It was a personal idea to approach my father’s victims and something that I had already been doing outside the context of the documentary. Each time I had the opportunity to get close to an enemy or a victim of my father I felt the moral obligation to ask for their forgiveness for the harm my father had caused them. It wasn’t because I felt responsible, but because I felt a duty to support these families in their grief and wanted also the opportunity to tell them my own personal story.

Initially I contacted the sons of two of my father’s most prominent political victims, the Minister of Justice, Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, and the liberal politician, Luis Carlos Galan. I contacted the sons through a letter, in which I let them know the burden I felt and I asked for their forgiveness. I also described my own life, and that of my sister, who from a very young age also suffered the horror of state persecution. I wasn’t justifying the violent actions of my father but I wanted to explain the socio-political context that was present in the 80’s so that my father’s victims might understand what motivated all that violence. Injustices were suffered on all sides.

The first person who responded positively was Rodrigo Lara. Later we had the opportunity to meet and we both talked about our desire to make our country better, and to look ahead without the hatred and bitterness that had poisoned us for so long. I’m pleased to say we were able to reach a state of genuine forgiveness and reconciliation. The Galan brothers took a little longer to respond to my request, but finally they did too.

The film project showed that it is possible to forgive, that forgiveness isn’t a utopia, a romantic ideal or an illusion, but that it frees you from hate and helps eliminate the pain that can end up making you physically ill. When you forgive a person or a violent act, you are finding an inner strength far greater than the power of hatred or indifference. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools I have known, and I am surprised at the great number of people who are prepared to forgive in spite of having suffered immeasurable pain.

Nowadays, I consider myself a very good friend of one of Rodrigo’s brothers, a relationship which continues to surprise me. The fact that the sons of two former arch enemies are now friends is really what gives me the most hope and conviction that it is possible to make peace in the most extreme cases of violent conflict.