A visit to La Macarena

We landed at the small airport where there were two planes from the United States. From that area operates the Omega Fo

    To reach La Macarena in the Meta department, you have to drive all the way to Villavicencio and from there grab a small one-engine plane to take you deep into the jungle.

    La Macarena used to be a stronghold for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farca. It was there where they controlled an area the size of Switzerland after the failed peace negotiations with the government of Andres Pastarana in 2001.

    When Alvaro Uribe took office he doubled the size of the military and retook the territory that was once controlled by the Farc. La Macarena was one of those areas.

    We landed at the small airport where there were two planes from the United States. From that area operates the Omega Force that is going after Farc leaders such as the "Mono Jojoy" and others.

    The United States aids the Colombian military in its fight against the Farc ... and drug trafficking. Our equipment was carried from the airport to the city with a horse - just so you get an idea of the remoteness of this area.

    Unmarked graves

    We went to the cemetery that is located right in front of the military base ... and in an area far from the main entrance there are all these small wood marks ... They are unmarked graves.

    The military says they are people who died in combat. Locals say the bodies were taken there by the military. I have met with people that have found their relatives buried in that mass grave. They say that their loved ones were not guerrillas and many say that they cannot believe their children were killed to get extra holidays or a promotion.

    What is not clear is whether those lying there are "false positives" or not. False Positives is the name given to those who were killed as guerrillas but were not. There has been a scandal over this issue in Colombia as over 2,000 innocent people were killed and passed off as guerrilas to increase the combat body count and to enable the military personnel get rewards.

    Most of the victims were poor Colombians. What amazes me is that there are people in Colombia that justify what happened people who say that those are the consequences of war and the price for security. They were so tired of the abuses committed by the Farc that they are willing to turn a blind eye to something as serious as this.

    I have seen some letters where the District Attorney's office says there could be up to 2,000 bodies buried there. If confirmed, it could turn out to be largest mass grave in the country and Latin America.

    Slow investigations

    So far there are over 400 bodies that have been confirmed to be buried there, but investigations have been slow and many say the army could be trying to cover up these serious human rights abuses that were committed in the name of security. 

    "There is no interest from the government to investigate what happened. The military buried the corpses on earth so if we don't act immediately, the DNA of those bodies could be lost. They knew the procedures and did not go by them," Edinson Cuellar, a human rights lawyer, told me.

    Uribe visited the area and called those denouncing human rights abuses as "the spokespeople of the terrorists". Does he sound like George Bush or what?

    Whatever happened in this area is an example of the costs of empowering the military and lack of control. Colombia's new president should not only investigate and judge those responsible. He was minister of defence when many of these crimes were committed. So we will have to see how far he is willing to go.


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