El Espectador (Colombia), September 14, 2018
Translated by CSN volunteer Steve Cagan
(Notes from the translator about the title of the article: 1. Soacha is a large suburb of working-class and poor people to the south of Bogotá. Many people displaced by the violence of the civil conflict have settled there. 2. “False positives” is the term used for people who were killed by the armed forces, who later claimed that the dead were guerrilla fighters who had died in combat. Having killed more “guerrillas” was good for an officer’s career. 2. The JEP is the Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (the Special Jurisdiction for Peace), a judicial structure created to hear cases covered under the peace agreement between the government and the FARC.)
The document brings together the stories of 19 murders of innocent young people who were presented by the army as having died in combat. The information will be analyzed by the Sala de Reconocimiento, Verdad y Responsabilidad [The Chamber of Recognition of Truth and Responsibility].
Ten years have elapsed since the systematic murders of innocent young people of Soacha (Cundinamarca), who were reported by the Army as having died in combat. Now, the mothers of the victims delivered a report that brings together the stories of 19 cases that took place mostly in 2008 to the Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz [the Special Jurisdiction for Peace].
Although the members of the Colectivo Madres de los Falsos Positivos de Soacha (MAFAPO) [The Collective of Mothers of False Positives of Soacha] have heard conflicting opinions about whether their cases would get to the JEP, for several months they have dedicated themselves to documenting the stories of the lives of their sons in order to demand the truth and justice, and to deliver them to the Chamber of Acknowledgment, Truth and Responsibility.
They refer to how these young men of few resources were recruited with false promises of jobs, the way in which they were recruited and transferred to far-away areas of the country – the majority to Ocaña (Norte de Santander) –, and later were murdered by Army troops.
To give a picture of their story, the Mothers of Soacha occupied the facilities of the JEP and converted their sorrow into an artistic exhibit through photographs, posters and paintings. “Ten years, [we are] alive and united,” was the slogan printed on their t-shirts. Beatriz Méndez, one of the members of the Collective, mother of Weimar Castro and aunt of Edward Rincón, recalled the facts about how her relatives were murdered.
“My case happened in 2004. I’d think they were the first false positives that happened in Bogotá, because they didn’t manage to take them away. They were tortured; they tore off an ear. They hit my nephew in the forehead and disguised them as guerrillas,” she recounted.
Because of these acts in Soacha and Bogotá, two investigations have been carried out in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. In the first, on August 10, 14 military personnel implicated in what was called the false positives of Soacha, including Colonel Gabriel de Jesús Rincón Amado, asked their victims to pardon them, and committed themselves not to repeat that behavior. This Thursday, the ex-commander of the Army, retired Gen. Mario Montoya, testified before the JEP, and one of the acts for which he is being investigated has to do with the murder of the young people of Soacha. In that case, the retired officer insisted on his innocence and through his lawyer, said that he will not ask “to be pardoned for actions of third parties.”
With the delivery of the report, the Chamber of Recognition of Truth and Responsibility of the JEB will have to analyze this information and contrast it with the reports of state institutions (Prosecutors, Judicial Branch, Inspector General, among others) and call the people to testify who are the principle guilty parties for these acts.