By Beatriz Valdés Correa, EL ESPECTADOR, May 28, 2020
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
In its report entitled “Digging Up Truth and Justice”, Movice tells in detail how the partnerships of the Heroes of Montes de María of the AUC with politicians, businessmen, and the Colombian Army enabled the disappearance of people whose bodies may be found in 15 farms and 18 cemeteries in the province.
Three children of the Causado Márquez family were murdered and disappeared between 1994 and 2002. Álvaro José, Róviro, and Walter de Jesús were campesinos who belonged to the National Association of Campesino Land Users (Anuc in Spanish) in Sucre, and leaders of the social and political life of the province. On February 24, 2003, Cristóbal Manuel Paternina Hernández, a resident of the District (corregimiento) of La Libertad (San Onofre Municipality), was disappeared. His family describes how you could see from his farm the way the paramilitaries that belonged to the Heroes of Montes de María Bloc frequently came to the Infantry post, and how a number of the officers kept up relations with members of the paramilitaries. Months later, they murdered and disappeared Edualdo León Díaz, Mayor of El Roble in April of 2003 after he complained that the then-Governor of Sucre, Salvador Arana Sus, was a paramilitary.
That’s how it was in Sucre between the end of the ‘80’s and the first decade of the 21st century. The paramilitary organizations were allied with the social, political, and economic spheres of the province, and all the while the Heroes of the Montes de María Bloc were committing massacres, selective murders, sexual violence, and disappearances, they were also displacing and dispossessing the people. At the same time, companies and politicians were acquiring land. That is detailed in the report “Digging Up Truth and Justice”, prepared by the Movement of Victims of Crimes by the Government (Movice in Spanish) and the Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP in Spanish) and delivered today to the agencies of the transitional justice system.
The document explains the alliances with local politicians, which ended up making the decisions on the violent acts. They are the now recognized and convicted Salvador Arana Sus, who recently submitted to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, Miguel Nule Amín and Álvaro García Romero, responsible for the massacre at Macayepo. And it mentions another 39 public officials and employees of the private sector connected by the Attorney General’s Office in investigations of their relationship with paramilitary groups in twelve municipalities in Sucre Province.
But beyond showing the responsibilities, this report goes on to “reconstruct the profile and the circumstances of the disappearance of 259 victims, grouped into 222 cases of forced disappearance in Sucre during the years 1988 through 2008. It carried out an analysis of the documented cases so as to identify the global dimension of the phenomenon, such as the purpose, the victims, those responsible, modus operandi, those benefited, and the principal patterns,” states the report.
In their analysis, the organizations concluded that the forced disappearance was “a practice that was committed in Sucre in a generalized and systematic manner that served as a strategy to carry out theft of land. It was a mechanism of extermination used against population groups that were exercising some kind of social and political leadership and who made complaints about the activities that victimized people, and/or people who were different and seemed a threat to the community, and as a way of sowing terror and exercising territorial control in a strategic area at the political and economic level. It was also used to impose a social model favorable to the interests of people who fostered and benefited from the violence. Their relationship as partners with the government allowed them to carry out these actions with complete impunity.
Only 17 bodies from this universe of cases have been recovered. The rest of them, and others, are presumed to be in 15 farms and 18 cemeteries in the province. The farms are
La Libanesa (El Oriente)
Nuevo Mundo (La 70)
Las Melenas Arroyo Cruz
El Palmar de Libertad.
For their part, the cemeteries are
Central Cemetery of San Onofre
Cemetery of Rincón del Mar
Central Cemetery of Sincelejo
Municipal Cemetery of San Luis de Sincé
Municipal Cemetery of Galeras
Central Cemetery of Berrugas
Municipal Cemetery of Ovejas
Municipal Cemetery of San Marcos
Municipal Cemetery of Don Gabriel
Municipal Cemetery of Flor de Monte
La Peña Cemetery
Municipal Cemetery of Corozal
Local Cemetery of Morroa
Municipal Cemetery of Sampués
Central Cemetery of Toluviejo
How did the paramilitaries manage to convert the farms into common graves? The report says that even though, at the beginning, when the paramilitary army was formed with the support of the politicians from farms like Las Canarias, Carare (a property belonging to Miguel Nule Amín) and Las Melenas (administered by the paramilitary commander “Diego Vecino”), once they were consolidated “they made use of the control they exercised over the territory so as to carry out clandestine burials to make the bodies disappear. For that they used the farms and ranches in the province that they had stolen as centers for paramilitary operations, where they could bring their victims to torture them, kill them, and bury their bodies in the fields.”
An example of that is the paramilitary commander Rodrigo Mercado Peluffo, known as “Cadena” who “gave the order for his men to disappear and displace people in the region in order to take possession of their land and turn the farms and ranches into centers for paramilitary operations. They also used the farms for military training for the members of the group, and there they gathered, organized, and prepared before they went to carry out their operations.”
After these discoveries, the organizations asked the JEP to
open a major case for forced disappearances; they asked the Unit for the Search
for the Disappeared to prepare plans for local searches to recover at least 84
people, the location of whose remains may possibly be known. And they asked the
Truth Commission to investigate the government responsibility in these cases
and to identify the 15 farms as memory sites where hundreds of families are
hoping to find the bodies of their loved ones.
 Movice is the Spanish acronym for the group “Movement of Victims of Crimes by the Government”.
 A paramilitary group.