Deaths attributed to army and paramilitaries
[Translation of an article from La Jornada of Mexico City for July 24, 2010, based on dispatches from Agence France Presse and Notimex.]
Bogotá, July 23 –In a public hearing on Friday with residents of La Macarena, in the department of Meta, a delegation from the United States and Europe confirmed the existence of a mass grave containing some 2,000 unidentified bodies whose deaths they attribute to rightist paramilitaries and the Colombian army.
The delegation was headed by six Members of the European Parliament (MEP), who denounced that “the army is killing its own people.” Ana Gómez, an MEP in the Commission on Human Rights, said the grave is an abnormality she cannot understand, since the armed forces exist to protect the people and not to act against them.
“They’re not there to kill the people; there is a horrible perversion in these acts in which innocent youths, men and women, area taken by members of the armed forces who turn them into false positives and are rewarded for it,” she said in reference to civilians who are executed extrajudicially and displayed as guerrillas killed in battle.
Colombian opposition legislators Piedad Córdoba and Iván Cepeda, who were also present, demanded an investigation into statements by residents of the area concerning the common grave, which is located in a cemetery in La Macarena, and concerning which the government of President Álvaro Uribe acknowledges the existence of only 450 unidentified bodies.
Córdoba, of the Partido Liberal, said the grave is “the largest in Latin America” and asked the international communithy to attend to the case so authorities of her country will investigate what happened there.
The senator added that within a month they will be prepared to present an official report on the hearings, which were held after residents decided to break the silence.
Javier Giraldo, of the Centro de Investigación Popular and the Programa por la Paz de Colombia, said 52 statements by relatives of victims had been submitted.
“There had been forced disappearances carried out by paramiltaries and others by the army,” he said. He added that among the victims there had been cases of the so-called false positives.
“There are cases of death threats, torture and killings. The international delegation could see the entire area of the anonymous graves identified consecutively by year,” the investigator explained.
He annouced that next September more documented cases of forced disappearances and murders in other regions of the South American country will be offered.
The public hearing was attended by some 800 campesinos of the region and of Caquetá, where it was reported that military helicopters would arrive to deposit lifeless bodies and then depart. They denounced that the humanitarian crisis in the eastern plains grew worse with the initiation of Plan Colombia, promoted by the United States to “fight against narcotrafficking and organized crime.”
Meanwhile, agents of the Colombian prosecutor’s office apprehended former Congressman César Pérez García, charged with being involved in the slaughter of 43 campesinos in 1988 in the northwest of the country by paramiliary groups of the extreme right.