A State Council investigation determined that the servicemen died under “conditions that could have been avoided by the National Army,” unable to defend themselves due to faulty and badly repaired weaponry.
On July 8, 1999 , the FARC attacked the town of Gutierrez, in the state of Cundinamarca, killing 35 soldiers and 3 non-combat officers and injuring nine. In a previous hearing on the attack in June 2013, the State Council condemned the Ministry of Defense and the Army, which it deemed had “failed to provide the human and material support” the soldiers required.
Soldiers involved in the assault testified before the high court, claiming that they were not provided with adequate weaponry or military hardware to deal with the rebel threat.
The State Council determined that the M-60 machine guy used by the troops at the time had been repaired with tape, preventing an “effective resistance against the attack,” declared the statement released by the state council.
The relevant military command, furthermore, was said to have known about the possibility of attack, but took no adequate measures to prepare their troops for it. Poor equipment, including weapons and communications equipment, as well as the lack of a plan to ensure effective support, “contributed to the tactical disaster,” according to the court.
The State Council itself did not take any disciplinary measures following its investigation, but a copy of the report was reportedly sent to President Juan Manuel Santos, who was asked to “take account of this case.”
The late 1990s is considered the height of Colombia’s 50-year armed conflict. At the time, the Andean nation was teetering on the brink of collapse, with rebels making advances into major urban centers.