A tale of two headlines Friday links
Jan 282010
Picture from the El Nuevo Herald coverage of the mass grave.

Miami’s El Nuevo Herald and Spain’s Público have run stories in the past two days about a shocking find in La Macarena, about 200 miles south of Bogotá.

Residents say that after it entered the strongly guerrilla-controlled zone in the mid-2000s, Colombia’s Army began dumping unidentified bodies in a mass grave near a local cemetery. The grave may contain as many as 2,000 bodies.

Público reports:

Since 2005 the Army, whose elite units are deployed in the surrounding area, has been depositing behind the local cemetery hundreds of cadavers with the order that they be buried without names. …

Jurist Jairo Ramírez, the secretary of the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Colombia, accompanied a delegation of British legislators to the site several weeks ago, when the magnitude of the La Macarena grave began to be discovered. “What we saw was chilling,” he told Público. “An infinity of bodies, and on the surface hundreds of white wooden plaques with the inscription NN [name unknown] and dates from 2005 until today.”

Ramírez adds: “The Army commander told us that they were guerrillas killed in combat, but the people in the region told us of a multitude of social leaders, campesinos and community human rights defenders who disappeared without a trace.”

El Nuevo Herald reports:

A spokesman of the Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía) in Bogotá revealed to El Nuevo Herald that a mission from that institution’s Technical Investigations Corps (CTI) has already gone to the cemetery and confirmed the existence of “a large number” of cadavers in the grave, though it only made a few excavations.

“We became the site for the depositing of the war dead,” declared Eliécer Vargas Moreno, mayor of the municipality. …

Residents of La Macarena interviewed over the phone by El Nuevo Herald, under the promise that their identities would not be revealed, expressed their suspicion that among the bodies are relatives who disappeared during the last four years. They denied that the bodies are those of guerrillas and asked for the chance to prove it.

Colombia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office will make its first excavations at the site in mid-March. While we are not jumping to conclusions, we will be watching this case closely.

La Macarena, the site of the grave, has been a very important site of U.S.-aided military operations since the mid-2000s. In this area, the U.S. government supported and advised the Colombian Army’s 2004-2006 “Plan Patriota” military offensive, and since 2007 has supported the “Plan for the Integral Consolidation of La Macarena” or PCIM, part of the new “Integrated Action” framework that is now guiding much U.S. assistance.

3 Responses to “Army mass grave in La Macarena”

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    [...] Thursday we posted excerpts from two articles in Spanish-language media about a mass grave in the town of La Macarena. The [...]

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    [...] the beginning of this year, El Nuevo Herald [es] reported on the discovery of a mass grave containing more than 2,000 unidentified corpses buried in the municipality La [...]

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