Posted on April 13, 2017 9:39 am
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Categories: Transitions

Gruesome Task: Locating and Identifying Thousands of Unaccounted Dead in Years of Fighting (S)

The peace agreement with FARC puts the country in the face of the challenge of locating, identifying and handing over the thousands of bodies of civilians and combatants who died during the conflict and who have yet to appear. Some lie in municipal cemeteries; others in mass graves, or were lost in jungles and mountains.

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The cemetery of San Vicente del Caguán is an indicator of the bloody war that broke out after the dialogues failed between President Andrés Pastrana and the FARC. Starting on February 23, 2002,  dozens of bodies arrived without anyone to mourn them. They were those who died in the plains of the Yarí, in the mountains of the Eastern range and on the urban sidewalks of Caguan.

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According to the National Observatory of Memory and Conflict, 2,775 people died from the conflict in Caquetá since 1978. Of these, 1,615 were combatants and 1,160 civilians.

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In 1961, before the guerrilla movement was called FARC, armed peasants arrived in the region fleeing the bombings of what Senator Álvaro Gómez Hurtado then called “independent republics.” The persecution of Rojas Pinilla against the communists could be traced to 1953.

It was there that the insurgency was born and developed. Many peasants considered the struggle to be just, but not all took up arms. Some family members only met occasionally to greet each other, or when the decomposing corpses arrived for burial in the darkness of night.

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In the department of Guaviare, according to the National Observatory of Memory and Conflict, from 1978 to date, 981 people were killed because of the conflict: 451 civilians and 530 combatants.

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According to the National Center for Historic Memory, there are 60,630 people disappearances in Colombia. The Interior Ministry says that 24,482 bodies are unidentified in 375 municipal cemeteries in the country. Of those, only 450 have been identified by Legal Medicine; but relatives of only 14 corpses have been located. The reasons: fear, ignorance or because relatives keep the faith of finding them alive. Thousands of families have not provided their genetic samples to check them against those corpses for which information already exists.

El Espectador