Picture from an excellent June 2009 El Nuevo Herald series on the Soacha murders.
Writing a few days ago in El Espectador, columnist Felipe Zuleta reported that mothers of young men killed by the Colombian military have begun receiving anonymous threats.
The mothers live in the poor BogotÃ¡ suburb of Soacha, where in 2008 elements of the Colombian Army abducted young men, killing them and later presenting their bodies as those of illegal armed group members killed in combat. When news of the Soacha killings broke in September 2008, the scandal forced the firing of 27 Army personnel. Murder trials have been proceeding very slowly, with an increasing likelihood that some of those responsible may not be punished.
Now, Zuleta notes, the situation has grown more shocking.
These young men’s mothers are being threatened with death, and also submitted to acts of violence. In the last two weeks, one of them was grabbed by her hair by someone passing by on a motorcycle without license plates, another has been getting death threats, and a third had a military belt with barbed wire hung on the door of her humble house.
This all began to happen, coincidentally, after the commander of the armed forces, Gen. Freddy Padilla, showed his face to them for the first time, in mid-September. … I’m not accusing Gen. Padilla, but I wish to call his attention to what might happen to these citizens, who are neither rich nor influential and live in misery, and who could become victims of the same crimes that claimed their sons.
I don’t know about you, but it enrages me that while many of these mothers owe millions of pesos to funeral homes, after having to pay for their sons’ cadavers’ transportation from far corners of the country, the government is dispatching billions of pesos to benefit its friends and presidential campaign contributors through the Ministry of Agriculture. [Zuleta refers to the "Agro Ingreso Seguro" scandal discussed in an earlier post.]
We call on the Colombian authorities to ensure that the Soacha mothers’ security is fully guaranteed, and to investigate and punish these threats as part of a larger effort to purge the armed forces of any elements that could possibly be involved in such behavior.