Radio silences the ‘kidnapped voices’ and the production of political memory in Colombia (1994–...


After being kidnapped by the FARC-EP guerrilla group in 1994, the Colombian war reporter Herbin Hoyos created the radio show Las Voces del Secuestro (roughly translated, “the Kidnapped Voices”). For 24 years, the families of those abducted sent out public messages of remembrance each morning, hoping that their loved ones—deep in the jungles of Colombia—would be able to hear the broadcasts from their radios. Although the show ended in 2018, its legacy lives on, not only in the collective memory of many Colombians, but also as an exhibition at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva, Switzerland. In this article, I examine this radio program as a dispositif of power and knowledge that (re)produces a particular understanding of law, justice, and memory. In particular, this program has been used by far-right actors in Colombia to mobilize against the recent (2016) peace process—and its crown jewel, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). As the JEP tackles the question of FARC-EP kidnappings through its macro-case 01, the shadow of Las Voces looms large over Colombia’s transitional justice system. In the longest non-international armed conflict in Latin America, even the radio waves have served the continuation of war by other means.