False Positives



{Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator}

A hundred families are fighting so that the extrajudicial executions of their loved ones do not go unpunished. VerdadAbierta.com has collected eight of their stories.


The news that members of the Army had committed thousands of extrajudicial executions shook the country seven years ago. Nevertheless, with the scandal over, the investigations are making little progress. There are new complaints and many of the victims have received no reparation.

The first national meeting of victims of extrajudicial executions was facilitated by Cinep, the Minga Association, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner, the Center for Remembrance, Peace and Reconciliation, the Center for Psychosocial Attention (Caps is the Spanish acronym.), the Movement of Victims of the Government, the Orlando Fals Borda Lawyers Collective, the UTL (Legislative Working Unit) of Congressional Rep. Alirio Uribe and the Coordination Colombia-Europe-United States Workshop on Extrajudicial Executions.

Two weeks ago, 80 families from every region came to Bogotá for the first national meeting of victims of extrajudicial executions. What they hope to achieve is that the deaths of their sons, fathers, and brothers do not remain in impunity and that the circumstances of their deaths are brought to light. This will be no easy matter considering that, according to the Coordination Colombia-Europe-United States, there are 5,700 complaints and the Attorney General is conducting 3,430 investigations of the facts.

There are many obstacles. Seven years after the existence of “false positives” came to light, and 27 high-ranking military officers were separated from the Armed Forces for having allowed this to occur, only seven colonels have been convicted, and not one general has been charged. In several cases the families have had to insist for five years before the Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation that would not rest in the hands of the Military Justice System. And the civilian justice system moves too slowly. The families complain of delays in the investigations, of the inability of the prosecutors to connect the high-ranking military officers to the killings, of a worrisome burst of threats against victims and witnesses and, in some regions of the country, of complicity of judicial functionaries with members of the Armed Forces who are defendants.

The greatest frustration for this group of victims is that the “false positives” apparently are not a thing of the past. In this special VerdadAbierta.com compilation we collect complaints of extrajudicial executions that allegedly took place a few months ago in Huila and Nariño. “We are here and we continue to protest because we don’t want any more mothers to lose their sons,” said a victim to Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre during the meeting.

In terms of reparation, the record is also poor. Dozens of people are still demanding, unsuccessfully, the bodies of their loved ones. The majority of the families interviewed have not been recognized by the Victims Unit and, in a very few cases, the authorities and the local communication media have made some effort to controvert the military’s version that falsely accused their relatives of being guerrillas.

Added to that is the shadow of military legal immunity, because there are several bills in Congress that in different ways would require these murders to be treated as acts that are part of military service and thus belonging in the military justice system. There is also some fear that, as part of achieving a legal formula that would advance the peace process, these crimes would be pardoned.

Looking at all this, the victims of “false positives” as a group have requested that the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office create specialized chambers for this crime; that any prosecutors who have looked for ways to aid defendants in these cases be removed; and for greater speed in the ongoing investigations of the 22 high-ranking military officers involved. Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre has publicly promised to comply with each of these requests.

February 10, 2015

Town of Puerto Tolima in the Municipality of Santa María, Huila Province


Two months ago one of the most recent complaints of a possible extrajudicial execution took place in Huila. Are “false positives” continuing?

María del Carmen Hernández has lived her whole life in Santa María, a municipality in the northwestern part of Huila. She raised her four children there, she became a community leader in campesino organizations and she stood up to the FARC guerrillas when they tried to recruit her oldest son, Anderson Daza Hernández, when he was only 14 years old. Ever since he was a little boy, “Skinny”, as he was known in their town, was focused on his farm work, without neglecting the football and music he enjoyed. He married a young woman from the town of Puerto Tolima in Tolima Province and went to live there. Anderson knew that some farms in that area lay on the guerrillas’ routes, especially the “Heroes of Marquetalia” Column that was active in the province, but he thought there would be no danger as long as he did not get involved with anybody.

He decided to get started in fish farming with a beginning crop of trout and he was making payments on a loan to improve his new farm. His mother remembers that on more than one occasion members of the Army that were patrolling the area camped on his land and Anderson, knowing the danger that meant, even shared food with them from his own crops.

On February 10, 2015, at 11a.m. the Army, the Air Force and the National Police were carrying out a joint operation against the Heroes of Marquetalia Column. Anderson, according to his wife, was fixing a dike inlet when they heard a plane and gunfire right near their house.

The Commander of the Zeus Task Force, Zeus Pablo Alfonso Bonilla, told the local press that a guerrilla carrying a rifle and dressed in black had been killed in the combat. “They don’t wear camouflage much anymore. Our most recent captures have been wearing black,” the officer told the local paper La Nación. The dead man was Anderson.

The family found out right away that his body was in the morgue at Ibagué. An aunt that lived there went to the morgue and she says that the first thing they asked her when she arrived was ”Are you related to the guerrilla?” When María del Carmen got to Ibagué the next day, she had to wait four hours to see a photo of the body. In spite of her entreaties, she was never allowed to see her son’s body. “I was left with a pain in my soul when I knew that I would not be able to embrace him for one last time. Besides that, they told me that the sooner he was buried, the better it would be,” she said.

The whole family was able to hold a wake in Santa María, and most of the people in the town attended the wake. The week after his death, February 16, the people of the town took to the streets to protest, carrying signs charging that Santa María had witnessed a new “false positive”.

For two months, María del Carmen and her family have carried out a public battle for the truth. They have gone to the local media to demand that Anderson’s good name be restored, while members of the Zeus Task Force of the Army insist that their relative was part of the ranks of the FARC. The investigation of the case is now in the hands of the Attorney General’s Office.

VerdadAbierta contacted the National Army to get more information about this operation, but did not receive any response.

Between July and August, 2007

Toluviejo, Sucre Province


In spite of its being one of the most talked-about cases from the Caribbean Coast and one of the prosecutions with the most guilty verdicts against members of the military, it is an example of the obstacles encountered by the victims in these thorny legal proceedings.

In Toluviejo, a municipality in northern Sucre Province, only 40 minutes from Sincelejo, eleven families lost their sons, brothers, and husbands at the hands of members of the Joint Task Force of the National Army in Sucre and the 11th Brigade. Between July and August of 2007, eleven young men between the ages of 16 and 27 years, left their town with supposed job offers, and months later, they were reported as guerrillas killed in combat.

On July 9, 2007, Carlos Alberto Baleta and Luis Alberto Pérez Mercado disappeared from their town. Both had been offered jobs at a ranch in San Marcos, Sucre Province, at a salary of 800,000 pesos (about $400) plus food and lodging. The recruiters knew that the partners of both men were pregnant.

On July 12, three friends, Frank Arley Padilla Bandera, Deimer José de Hoyos Rodríguez, and John Jairo Colón Ayala left town. They told their families that they had received a good job offer and they stayed in contact until the day after their departure. Frank’s family was afraid that they wanted to get involved with illegal armed groups and an uncle of his started to investigate further, but three days later, he was murdered. The Padilla family had to leave Toluviejo because of repeated threats.

On July 22 it happened again. This time Manuel Enrique Jiménez and Luis Fernando Mejía Vives left, followed two days later by Cristían Vergara Osuna, Julio Rafael Julio Olivero and Juan Bernardo Patrón Viloria. The last one to leave without a trace was Evin David Paternina Parra, a minor, 16 years old, with a cognitive disability. He left to run an errand and never returned home. His body has never been found.

The families got together and asked for answers from the recruiters, who were from the same town, from the Army, and from the local authorities, but nobody would respond.

Months later, in different news articles, their relatives’ photos appeared along with reports that they had been killed in combat. Their bodies were found to have been buried as Unidentified in cemeteries in Chinú, Córdoba, and Sincé in Sucre.

The families went together to the 11th Brigade so that they could see their bodies, but again and again they were refused. Determined to find them, the families sought help outside of Sucre and in October the Attorney General’s Office had already appointed a committee to find out what had happened.

The families recall that at the beginning they had to argue against the lawyers from the Ombudsman’s Office who did not want to undertake their cases. Neither did they receive any help from the local authorities. Even though they asked for help from the now defunct Social Action, they also refused, arguing that the victims appeared to have been reported as killers.

In the first hearing in the case against the recruiters, the families arrived together, carrying loads of big signs with the names of the victims. They started to yell at the defendants. Then the police and the riot police removed them.

The hearings were never held in a courtroom, but rather in the judge’s chambers. “Since there wouldn’t be room for all of us, we had to take turns and tell each other what was being said,” one of the victims reported.

In spite of the difficulties, the investigation bore fruit. Between 2008 and 2010 three of the recruiters were found guilty, Andrés Gregorio Pacheco, Robinson Barbosa, and Andrés Pacheco.

Next it was the soldiers’ turn. Luis Miguel Sierra and Iván Contreras, who were the connecting links, and Colonel Luis Fernando Borja, who was in charge of the Joint Task Force in Sucre, accepted plea bargains. The victims are waiting for the decision against Orlando Céspedes Escalona, the second in command.

Some of the young men from Toluviejo were killed by the Army’s Elite Anti-Kidnapping Unit in Córdoba, commanded by Major Julio César Parga Rivas, who has already been found guilty. “Parga said that he could not come to Sucre because there had been a lot of threats and he would be killed, so they held the proceedings in Bogotá. Those of us from Toluviejo who are victims are very poor and we had no way to pay our way there,” said Frank’s mother. She does not understand why the Major should have more protection than his victims had.

Colonel Luis Fernando Borja admitted having committed some 50 murders.

May 17, 2014

Town of Alto Amarradero, District of Cofania Jardines de Sucumbios, Municipality of Ipiales in Nariño Province


In this remote district of Nariño Province, bordered by Ecuador and Putumayo, the residents complain that extrajudicial executions have not halted. The Community is mourning the deaths of five young men.

It was 2:00 a.m. on May 17, 2014 when, according to the residents of the town of Alto Amarradero, the soldiers came to their houses and told them to hand over their cell phones, but not everybody complied. The people knew that something was wrong, because in the remote district of Cofania Jardines de Sucumbios there is not a permanent Army presence and least of all at 2:00 a.m.

At 4:00 a.m. they heard shots, and two hours later a helicopter arrived and the soldiers left the houses. The people went out to see what was happening because the sound of the helicopters reminded them of the disappearance of three people from their community in September of 1999 and they feared the worst.

The campesinos from the town arrived at the house of Orlando Obando. You could hear the shots there and there was a rumor starting to go around that they had killed a group of young men. They found several soldiers there who said they had killed four guerrillas, whose bodies lay on the floor, wrapped in white bags.

In spite of their entreaties, the soldiers would not let the people see the bodies of the four young men, and instead they showed photos they had taken with the cell phones. “My brother was there and I told them that he was no guerrilla. We were all protesting but they finally took the bodies away in a helicopter,” said a family member of one of the victims.

The young men killed were José Antonio Jacanamejoy, an indigenous man from Putumayo who worked his own farm in Alta Amarradero and who was part of the Community Action Group: Brayan Ytacue Secue, a Nasa indigenous man who lived with his uncle, Leonardo Yatacué; José Yiner Esterilla, who was part of the Nueva Esperanza Afro-Colombian Community Council; and Deivi López Ortega, a 14-year-old child. Residents of the town insist that the soldiers were taken aback when they found out that one of the supposed guerrillas was a child.

The families of the young men insisted that on the day before, the four had been playing pool in the afternoon, and as it was getting late, they asked if they could stay over night with Orlando Obando. They were dragged out of his house against their will by the members of the Armed Forces.

In the afternoon of that same day, the Press Office of the 6th Division and the N27 Jungle Brigade of the Army published a release asserting that the young men belonged to the 48th Front of the FARC guerrillas and that they had died in combat. It also stated that one of the was being investigated for terrorism, without stating which one. According to the release, “ . . . three AK-47 guns were recovered, eleven chargers, 418 7.62 mm. cartridges, four camp kits, and three multipurpose vests, among other things.

The families publicly denied those claims, but nobody listened to them. The local media gave big play to the Army’s release. On the next day, May 18, with the help of the Red Cross and the Ombudsman’s Office, the families were able to go to Puerto Asís to recover the bodies of their sons. Up to now, no members of the Armed Forces have returned to the town. VerdadAbierta.com contacted the National Army to obtain more information about this operation, but received no answer.

February 19, 2005

Lloró, Chocó


Even though in Chocó the residents are sure that they know dozens of victims of extrajudicial executions, it is one of the provinces where the Attorney General’s Office is carrying out the fewest investigations.

Julián Guevara was a woodcutter in the jungles of Chocó. He was 40 years old and everybody knew him in his native town, Lloró, in the western part of Chocó, 42 kilometers from Quibdó. The inhabitants regularly go into the jungle for weeks to take out the wood that they sell in the urban part of the municipality.

That is what Julián did, but on March 22, 2003, he was arrested along with a group of his companions. They were accused of being alleged collaborators with the guerrillas. He was behind bars for seven months before a court decision held that he and his companions were not guilty of the charges.

Guevara kept on working as a woodcutter, but he told the Municipal Clerk that he had been threatened and that he feared for his life. He and the others who had been released from prison had filed a complaint because of the time that they had been incarcerated.

On February 19, 2005, he returned as usual from Nipurdú, a town in the district of Lloró, to sell the wood. That night, Julián was having a few drinks in a store when some men grabbed him and forced him to board a boat. A relative remembers that he was traveling on the Andagueda River in his canoe when he saw a group of soldiers at a distance, taking a man up the river. He never imagined that it was Julián.

The next day the same men came down the river and got to the urban area, announcing that a guerrilla had supposedly been killed in combat.

One of the ten brothers of the Guevara family was “boating” on the river when he heard the rumor that Julián’s body was at the health center. “I ran and I had to push aside some soldiers that wouldn’t let me go to see him. They had changed his clothes; he was wearing some boots that weren’t his and a green military jacket. All of his papers had been destroyed.” In spite of the fact that he died of a bullet wound in his chest, according to people who saw his body, the jacket didn’t have any bullet hole.

In a town with something more than 10,000 residents, a lot of people knew Julián and they knew he was no guerrilla, but it was useless. “It was our word against a Colonel. There was nothing we could do. The case was closed,” said one of his relatives.

During 2008

Tunja, Boyacá Province


 The stigmas and the “invisiblization” that happen to people who live in the street impose an extra burden for their family’s ability to get at the truth.

In the Tunja transportation terminal everybody sees the “errand boys”* every day. This is the name used for the young people who obtain passengers, carry the luggage, and check the tires of the buses in exchange for a few coins. In 2008, month by month, day by day, six of them disappeared right under the noses of the people of the city.

Jorge Enrique Hernández was one of them. He was 34 years old, married, with one son. Four months ago, he had come from Simijaca, a municipality north of Cundinamarca, after a relapse of his drug addiction. “He stayed at home for long periods and made several attempts at recovery. When he relapsed, he stayed in contact with his family as always,” remembered one of his relatives.

Twenty-six-year-old Mauricio Hernández Cuadrado worked at the transportation terminal occasionally as an “errand boy”. Some nights he slept in the street, just as Jorge did, but he never lost contact with his family.

One by one, the six “errand boys” received supposed job offers. Before his death, Jorge called a friend and told her that they were going to pay him 800,000 pesos (about $400) a month in his new job, along with food and shelter. They told Mauricio that he definitely had a job in Soacha.

In March of 2008, witnesses saw Mauricio for the last time when he got into a red car. His body was found shortly after that in the town of Cómeza Baho, in the rural part of Socotá in Boyacá Province. Members of the Tarqui Batallion of the National Army in Sogamoso reported that he was an alleged courier for the 28th Front of the FARC who had died in combat.

Four months after the death of Mauricio, they took Jorge. His family filed a complaint about his disappearance, but it was three years before they found a death registered in the Forensic Medicine Unit that matched Jorge. They killed him on July 4, 2008, the same day he was taken away. His body turned up in Chinavita, a municipality in the southern part of Boyacá Province.

Army records stated that he was a guerrilla, but press accounts asserted that he was a criminal who was in the drug trade. His death was attributed to the General Simón Bolivar Infantry Battalion No. 1, the same one in which Jorge had served years ago.

According to the Human Rights Observatory for Boyacá, there had been more than 20 complaints of extrajudicial executions in that region.   In the Cinep Data Bank there are 42 cases reported between August 2002 and August 2010. Most of the investigations are focused on the Municipality of Pajarito, bordering Casanare Province.

Even while the majority of the cases remain in impunity, the families of the people who live in the street feel that they have to fight a double battle. “There are a number of cases, but there is such a stigma against people who have some kind of addiction that the families prefer not to talk about those problems, so as not to suffer even more,” said a relative of one of the victims.

In Tunja the families are fighting a legal battle for their dead. “It hasn’t been easy. At the hearings, the military always bring out the health problems of our family members as a kind of justification for what happened,” added the same relative.

Even though Jorge’s case is not yet resolved, the prosecution for the death of Mauricio led to sentences of 25 years in prison for Corporal Diego Hernán Moreno and Private 2d Class Yebrail Galvis of the Tarqui Battalion from Sogamoso.

       * Young men, some homeless, who run errands at the bus terminal

January 27, 2008

Town of Puerto Nuevo Ité, Remedios Municipality, in Antioquia Province


The González family’s story is an example of how the extrajudicial executions are used to silence social leaders.

He was only seven years old in 1992 when he came to Puerto Nuevo Ité, a town in the Cimitarra River Valley in northwestern Antioquia Province. His father, Miguel Angel González Huepa, who at that time was a political leader in the Patriotic Union Party (UP) was displaced and forced to leave La Macarena in Meta Province.

Once they got to Antioquia there was no end to their work. González Huepa was a UP Council member for Yondó between 1994 and 1997. He was also one of the founders of the Campesino Association for the Cimitarra River Valley (ACVC is the Spanish acronym.). It is an organization that defends human rights and pushes for land redistribution and won the National Peace Prize in 2010.

Following in his father’s footsteps, his son joined the town’s Community Action Board and was one of the leaders of the Humanitarian Action for Coexistence and Peace Corporation of Northeast Antioquia (Cahucopana is the Spanish acronym.) In 2008, when he was 23 years old, he farmed his own place, had married a girl from Antioquia, and had two children.

On January 27 at 7:30 in the evening, when Miguel Angel Jr. was riding on horseback from his farm to the urban part of the area, he was seized and murdered by members of the Calibio Batallion of the 14th Brigade of the Army’s 7th Division. His body was taken to Puerto Berrio, where he was buried as Unidentified.

His father was in jail when he found out, because a week earlier on January 19, 2008, he had been arrested for rebellion. He was released a year later when no evidence had been found to support the charge.

On the day after the murder, the Army released a statement that still remains on its web site, saying that “The town of Dos Quebradas, located in the municipality of Remedios, Antioquia Province, was the place where troops of the Calibio Battalion, attached to the 14th Brigade of the National Army, in combat had killed a guerrilla, alias Julián, who was part of the Raúl Eduardo Mahecha gang of the FARC.

Months later when they were able to exhume his body, his relatives transported it to Remedios. The legal proceedings were taken out of the military justice system and transferred to the civil justice courts. But seven years later, no member of the military has been found guilty of the murder.

“I know that I can no longer bring my son back, but I do have to keep on insisting on this so that nobody else will lose his relatives this way,” said Miguel Angel González Huepa.

January 10, 2007

Town of Malvinas, Municipality of Tame, Arauca Province


This is one of the 90 cases of extrajudicial executions that are being investigated in Tame, one of the municipalities with the largest number of complaints of this crime in the country.

Alonso Rodríguez was born in the rural part of Tame. He was the oldest of ten children who, from their earliest childhood, had to work in the fields to help support their family. Alonso worked as a day laborer on the farms near his home from his childhood until he was 23 years old.

In January 2007, along with his friend Flavio Ariza Ortíz who was 20, Alonso got a job in the town of Malvinas, located about an hour’s walk from his home. The two friends agreed that they would live on the farm and visit their families on weekends. In Malvinas they met their other co-worker José Jeremías Vargas.

At 6 a.m. on January 10, 2007 after they had worked their first eight days, Flavio, Alonso and José were at the house where the farm managers lived when five members of the 5th Brigade of the National Army walked in. The soldiers beat the three workers continuously and repeatedly.

All this happened in front of the horrified managers of the farm and their young daughter who was only 16 years old. She begged the soldiers to stop and repeated again and again that Alonso and the other two were not guerrillas.

The soldiers threatened the family with their guns and forced them to get out of the house and told them to “. . . take care of the cows the way you do every day and don’t even think about coming back into the house until after we leave,” reported a relative of Alonso who knew the witnesses. During the trial, the managers of the farm recounted that for hours they had heard the screams of the men who were being tortured.

The families of Alonso and Flavio found out the same day that the two were dead, but they could not believe it when they heard a colonel of the 5th Brigade say on the local radio that three guerrillas had been killed in combat. They went immediately to the morgue in Tame and they could recognize parts of the bodies of their relatives who had been burned with battery acid.

Alonso’s family was terrified and did not know what to do so they locked themselves in their house for 15 days until they got up the courage to go to the Attorney General’s Office in Saravena and file a complaint, because they did not trust the authorities in Tame.

The battle of the Rodríguez and the Ariza families began at that moment. Not only did they have to convince the witnesses, who did not dare to speak up for fear of reprisal, but also they had to keep fighting for the five years that it took for the case to get from the military criminal justice system into the civilian legal system.

Now they only hope that the three years it has taken for the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office to investigate what happened will result in a conviction against the five soldiers responsible for the killings.

July 18, 2008

Neiva, Huila Province


In Neiva there are 27 ongoing investigations by prosecutors for “false positives.”

On 8th Street in Neiva across from an old Ley store, everybody knows “Statue” or “Eyebrows”. Those are the nicknames used for Miller Andrés Blandón, a young man 25 years old who poses every day as a human statue in the center of the city.

Andrés lived most of his life in the streets, but his family has never lost track of him. He had a problem with drug addiction and had tried several times to recover in various rehabilitation centers in Neiva. “He was always working downtown as a statue. When he felt that he was relapsing he would go to the rehabilitation center on his own,” his grandmother, Silvia Segura, told VerdadAbierta.

He was used to go to the Neiva House of Passage for Street Dwellers to eat. According to witnesses, it was there where two men went up to Andrés and three of his friends and offered them jobs harvesting coffee. They told them they would pay them a salary, along with meals and new clothes. “They had three opportunities; they took the three and nothing was ever heard from them again,” another street person told the local press at the time.

On July 18, 2008, the grandmother got a call from a funeral home in Pitalito, telling her that her grandson’s body was there, 200 kilometers from her house. They told her Andrés had died in combat with the Army and his body was found in the neighboring municipality of Isnos. Silvia could not believe this because only two days go she had seen him early in the morning in the hall of her house.

Members of the Army’s Magdalena Battalion, based in Pitalito told the local media that there were three guerrillas from the 13th “Timanco” Front of the FARC. They were about to bury Andrés as Unidentified when they found his grandmother’s contact information in his wallet. That same day, Silvia traveled to Pitalito and identified the tortured body of Andrés, who was dressed in clothes that did not belong to him. Because she had no money to transport his body, he had to be buried in Pitalito.

But she was not about to accept the military’s version. She went to downtown Neiva and collected signatures of all of the people who knew her grandson and presented them to the Attorney General’s Office. She confronted the local media and Colonel Marcos Pinto Salazar, who commanded the Battalion.

Seven years later, the investigation is still ongoing in the office of Special Prosecutor No. 58 in Neiva.




























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