The Colombian government denies reports of a mass grave found in the south-east department of Meta, claiming that the allegation is a strategy to derail the Andean nation’s free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union (EU).
A group of NGOs and a political movement headed by Liberal Senator Piedad Cordoba reported Wednesday that a mass grave containing 2,000 bodies had been found in the Meta municipality La Macarena, next to an army installation.
According to the government, the claims are an attempt by NGOs opposed to the FTA to generate a scandal, to undermine the E.U.’s ratification of the agreement it signed with Colombia in May.
“It is considered to be suspicious that this NGO is promoting this allegation, precisely when in September, in Europe, Colombia will try to ratify an FTA with the European Union, it’s not a coincidence,” a government source told Caracol Radio.
Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos met with members of the NGOs who made the allegation in Bogota on Wednesday. Santos’ Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin and his Vice President-elect Angelino Garzon also attended the behind-closed-doors meeting. No comment was made on the meeting, which was attended by members of British NGO Justice for Colombia, an organization vocally opposed to the Colombia-EU FTA because of Colombia’s human rights record.
According to a government press release, the Meta site in question is an old cemetery with 449 individual graves, and the Prosecutor General’s Justice and Peace unit undertook a mission to exhume the bodies and compile information on the bodies in the face of the NGOs’ allegations. While some of the remains have been identified, others never had identity papers, the government said.
The press release said that the Prosecutor General’s Office will continue investigations into the claims.
According to Cepeda, locals had reported the mass grave but were largely ignored.