Colombia’s Vice-President has admitted that the government did not stop paramilitary forces committing massacres during years of “open and brazen” cooperation.
Angelino Garzon was speaking on Friday in Bucaramanga, northeast Colombia, during an event to mark the 1987 massacre of 19 people by alleged government and paramilitary forces in the Puerto Boyaca region of Boyaca department, near to Bogota.
He said that such massacres would have been avoided if the government had acted.
At the time of the massacre Garzon was a union leader in the area. According to news website El Heraldo, Garzon described himself as a “witness” to the “open and brazen” cooperation between the government and the AUC in the area.
“I saw how [the AUC] threatened us in the presence of state officials, I saw with my own eyes the cooperation between the local government, the army and the police with the paramilitaries in Puerto Boyaca.”
Garzon was in Bucaramanga, Santander department, fulfilling obligations specified by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), who ruled in 2004 that the state erect a monument in memory of the 19 tradesmen who were killed. The IACHR also called on the government to give compensation to the families of the victims and open an investigation into the crime, among other things.
Ten members of the AUC and two soldiers are currently serving sentences for their part in the massacre, in which the tradesmen were tortured, murdered, then thrown in a stream.
“It has been a titanic battle,” said Maria Pineda, family of one of the victims, to newspaper El Tiempo. “Days after the disappearances they [the paramilitaries] threatened us so that we would keep quiet. We’ve spent 26 years waiting for the truth to come out.”
News website Vanguardia claims that the state is still refusing to condemn those members of the armed forces implicated in the massacre, despite the IACHR ruling that the state “violated the rights to personal liberty, humane treatment and life” of the victims.
- Admiten que Estado colombiano fue permisivo con paramilitares (Prensa Latina)
- “Vi convivencia abierta y descarada del Estado con grupos armados”: Angelino Garzón (El Heraldo)
- Masacre de 19 comerciantes sigue impune luego de 24 años (Vanguardia)
- IACHR Ruling: Case of the 19 Merchants v. Colombia, Judgment of July 5, 2004