The president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Cilia Flores, accused Colombian President Alvaro Uribe of claiming that Venezuela harbors guerrillas in order to divert attention from the discovery of an alleged mass grave in the Meta department, reports El Espectador.
Flores said that Colombia’s presentation of allegations to the Organization of American States (OAS) on July 22 was a “strategy to cover up the genocide in La Macarena.”
La Macarena is a town in Colombia’s south-eastern Meta department where a group of NGOs, along with a delegation headed by Liberal Senator Piedad Cordoba, reported the discovery of a mass grave containing 2,000 bodies near an army base.
The Colombian government says that the allegations are a strategy to derail the free trade agreement (FTA) talks with the European Union (E.U.).
“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 Colombian government source said.
Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez stated Friday that Colombia has additional evidence that has not been released which gives further proof that there is a guerrilla presence in Venezuela.
Flores responded to Bermudez’s comments by saying again that Colombia “seeks to cover up the genocide committed by the present government.”
The Venezuelan assembly president said that the Uribe government had failed to improve the conflict situation in Colombia, and has “further aggravated the situation.”
“I think the world is asking for justice and to recompose the relations between Colombia and Venezuela,” she said.
Colombian congressman Ivan Cepeda, who is a leading activist for the Movement for Victims of State crimes (MOVICE), said that in addition to the testimony from local residents in La Macarena, the Inspector General’s Office released a report on “the existence of a cemetery.”
Estimates of the number of people buried in the area vary, with some claiming that there are only a few hundred bodies, while others say the figure is as high as 2,000.
According to a government press release, the site 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 them following the NGOs’ allegations. While some of the remains have been identified, others never had identity papers, the government said.
La Macarena was one of the five municipalities that former Colombian President Andres Pastrana demilitarized between 1999 and 2002 in southern Colombia, in order to conduct peace negotiations with the FARC which eventually failed.