INFOBAE, November 30, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The Dike Canal runs through three departments, Atlantico, Bolívar, and Sucre. The people that live there maintain that between 1997 and 2005, every day they saw from five to eight bodies in the river. They were bodies of people killed in the midst of the armed conflict. Right now they estimate that at the bottom and sides of the canal, some 20,000 bodies are buried.
During the meeting for Recognition of Responsibility for the Violence that was observed at the Dike Canal because of the record of violence that was experienced in this area during the armed conflict, the President of the Truth Commission, Fr. Francisco de Roux, said that it’s time for the country to reconcile, and to show the world what happened at this place, for the commemoration of the victims and their families.
De Roux stated that, “The Dike Canal was turned into a horrendous cemetery. It’s a very hard truth, but when we walk away from here, we have to have a serious understanding of what happened here. The people that live here have to know it, as well as all of Colombia, and the international community also.
The history of violence in the Dike Canal
Between 1997 and 2005, the Dike Canal was turned into the largest mass grave in the history of Colombia. The paramilitaries that roamed that area killed a dozen people every day, and later threw their bodies into the river. We don’t yet know the number of crimes that that place witnessed, but according to figures from the JEP, it’s estimated that there are some 20,000 bodies submerged in the Canal.
In an interview with EL HERALDO, one of the residents of the community of Rocha, in the municipality of Arjona, in northern Bolívar, described how he had witnessed the killings that they saw every day near the river. The man told how he had to look on as the paramilitaries brought trucks carrying dozens of people that were tied up, and then they killed them. But that’s not all; they cut their bodies in pieces, and part by part, they threw them into the river. It was not only to make them disappear, but also so that the community could see what the paramilitaries were capable of doing to anybody that dared break the rules that they had imposed.
“Often you could see those tied-up bodies, and other times just extremities floating by. It was horrendous, and, at the same time hair-raising, how the image just turned into scenery. The “chulos” (buzzards or “goalies”) never left the Dike, and there even came a time when those birds no longer ate the dead cows, pigs, or dogs that people threw into the river; they only wanted to eat the people,” the man told EL HERALDO.
In one of EL TIEMPO’s special investigations, they interviewed Uber Banques, alias “Juancho Dique”, a former paramilitary commander in the area, and the one who had given the order to throw the bodies there. He described how, when he was in command, he ordered the killing of at least eight people every day, all of them for revenge, disagreements within criminal organizations, and drug trafficking.
“There was such a high index of killings, and those bodies were lying on the side of the road. That situation was affecting the higher-ups in the Armed Forces; they were missing out on promotions. That was when the Castaño family ordered us to make them disappear, to throw them into the Dike Canal,” Banquez confessed to EL TIEMPO.
Adíl Meléndez, an attorney representing the families that lost their loved ones at that time, assures that there are records of disappearances that all together, support a conclusion that in that place, the bodies of some 20,000 people were thrown into the river. In addition, they believe that there still must be thousands of bodies buried in the bog of the Canal and at the bottom. “What happened in that part of the country is very serious, and continues to be covered up today. The government has turned its back on what happened there. Between 1997 and 2005, based on the accounts of multiple informants, there were days in which more than 40 bodies floated by. The communities on the river banks couldn’t drink the water from the canal because of its odor and the fat it contained,” the attorney explained to EL HERALDO.
Public records in that area report that between Calamar Municipality and as far as Cartagena, there are 25 locations where bodies were thrown into the river at the paramilitaries’ orders.