Colombia’s state council condemned the inaction of the armed forces in preventing a paramilitary-led massacre of 20 people in the central Colombian department of Meta in May of 1998.
The massacre in Caño Jabon, a small town in central Colombia, resulted in the looting and burning of the entire town before 20 civilians were selected to be tortured, decapitated, and burned in the town center. Orchestrated by the now-defunct paramilitary group, the AUC, the attack was seen as a method to drive the remaining population away from the area.
The third section of the State Council noted that the Colombian army, who had a base within 45 miles of the site, failed to uphold their constitutional duty to protect the civilians. The Council also noted that the army, and by extension, the government, failed to respond to three prior complaints made by the residents of Caño Jabon who supposedly warned authorities that an attack was imminent. The armed forces’ reluctance to act was blamed on the assumption that the townsfolk were being “managed and manipulated” by Colombia’s largest left-wing guerrilla group, the FARC.
Throughout the investigation, the council pointed out that the state “left the public in the hands of murderers who have sown death, especially in remote regions of the country…The state [did not meet] its obligations, it allowed these people [to be] viciously murdered.”
An argument raised by Colombia’s ministry of defense was that the threat of paramilitaries was country-wide and they could not be “in every region of the country, addressing the threats of [every] civilian.”
The episode has cast a dark shadow over the history of Colombia’s armed forces as claims arose from Salvatore Mancuso, the former leader of the AUC, who said that the army aided and abetted the massacre as they did in the 1997 Mapiripan massacre. According to the extradited ex-paramilitary, soldiers and senior army leaders turned a blind eye to the actions of the AUC, even allowing them to land planes on an army airstrip, before the paramilitaries used chainsaws and machetes to murder residents of Mapiripan.
Mancuso reportedly claimed that the operation relied on the complacency of the armed forces, specifically Colonel Lino Sanchez, who coordinated military operations throughout the Meta department.
- Condenan al Estado por masacre de Caño Jabon (El Espectador)
- “En Caño Jabón también ayudaron los militares”: Mancuso (Verdadabierta.com)
- Mancuso señaló a general del Río y a Víctor Carranza (Verdadabierta.com)