Home » From Bajo Baudó to the judicial top: the story of Gerson Chaverra

From Bajo Baudó to the judicial top: the story of Gerson Chaverra

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From Bajo Baudó to the judicial top: the story of Gerson Chaverra

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He began as a municipal judge in a region affected by violence and poverty. Overcoming numerous challenges, one of them racism, he became vice president of the Supreme Court of Justice

Gerson Chaverra was born in the hands of a midwife, in the Querá school, a village in Bajo Baudó (Chocó, northwest of the country). Years in which his mother, Rita Manuela Castro, She was a teacher and traveled around the region giving classes.. And as happened with others of his nine children, that day the pains of childbirth appeared among students, the smell of chalk and old wood.

His pilgrimage was always long and adventurous kilometers. Two years after Gerson was born, she was transferred to towns near Quibdó and she went there for days and weeks. Her children grew up in the capital of Chocó, sometimes very far from it.

“My development, my childhood, my school, my high school were there. My mother, with great effort, in addition to supporting nine children with the salary of a school teacher, sent me, in 1986, to study Law at the Autonomous University of Bogotá,” recalls Chaverra.

He always wanted to be a judge, the one who resolves conflicts, who decides who is right in a case, lawsuit or litigation. That institutional figure always dazzled him. In April 1992, he was already a lawyer and entered the judicial branch, in his department, as municipal judge of Riosucio. Since then, his career has never been interrupted.

He was a judge, promiscuous or criminal, in Tadó, Istmina, Bahía Solano and Quibdó. And, in 2002, he faced what he considers his most emblematic case: he decided on the death of a Spanish citizen from an NGO. There was international pressure and threats from a paramilitary group. Despite being a young judge, he showed the robustness of judicial institutions in the midst of marginality and local poverty.

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In 2004, through a merit-based competition – he has obtained everything this way – he arrived in Bogotá as a circuit criminal officer for three years. Later, again through a competition, he was able to be president of the Superior Court of Quibdó, to the pride of Rita Manuela Castro.

He then remained in the same judicial instance in Bogotá (in the Criminal Chamber), for 11 years, including the presidency. In February 2020, he was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of Justice, and was promoted to president of the Criminal Cassation Chamber in January 2021 – of which he is today vice president. This year, for example, he had to confirm the sentence of 17 years and four months in prison against the former Minister of Agriculture Andrés Felipe Arias.

And having reached the peak of his career made him rewind his life, not forget where he came from, remember that when he went to university he looked longingly towards the Palace of Justice (under reconstruction), everything seemed distant, but he dreamed of it. He can’t stop remembering: “I visited this place as a student, with the economic limitations typical of someone from Chocó coming to Bogotá, of a mother who made efforts to have me here. Now I walk the same streets, but as a magistrate. My soul wrinkles.”

He remembers that when he was 23 years old, in the midst of guerrilla and paramilitary violence, to go from Quibdó to Riosucio he had to take a boat with an outboard motor for a trip that lasted eight or nine hours. He didn’t know how to swim. His mother remained distressed on the shore saying goodbye to her.

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But there were other, worse fears. Those who incited the paramilitaries who controlled one part of the river or those who incited the guerrillas, who dominated the other. These were times when the number of murders in the towns of the region increased. His journey ended in lower Atrato, but his true destiny – he affirms – was to be a judge.

Other barriers appeared later, many of them racial. Since then, one of its commitments and responsibilities is to show the new generations of African descent that, despite these structures and barriers imposed by racism and prejudice, it is necessary to fight to overcome them and that dreams are achievable.

“I always present myself as a career judge. I have gained all my experience through merit-based competitions. The greatest desire that a lawyer can have, the greatest desire that a judicial servant can have, I have already fulfilled: to reach the highest court of ordinary justice, that is, the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice.”

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