Conflicts & War

Colombia’s Search Unit recovers bodies of 5 presumed disappearance victims

Bogota, May 8 (EFE).- Colombia’s Search Unit for the Disappeared (UBPD) has recovered five bodies of potential members of armed groups in a cemetery in the town of San Luis de Palenque, in eastern Casanare province.

It is thought that the five people died in a clash in the zone on March 30, 1998.

Sonia Rodriguez, the director of the provincial UBPD in Yopal, the capital of Casanare, said Monday in a statement that the humanitarian action represents some closure for the families who, at present, know nothing about the specific fate of their disappeared loved ones.

“Within the UBPD’s mission statement is the search for all people disappeared by force, kidnapped, recruited, members of the public (security) forces or armed groups on the margins of the law who disappeared during the hostilities and whose whereabouts are unknown,” she said.

“On this occasion, and after 25 years, these families will be able to learn the truth and provide a dignified burial for their loved ones. These families have spent much time searching without obtaining a response, and so it’s very gratifying to know that we’re contributing to alleviating that pain and sorrow,” she added.

In the area where the bodies were found, the now-defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group was in control of the territory during the 1980s, although paramilitaries moved into the zone in the next decade, a situation that sparked armed clashes and led to forced disappearances and plundering, among other acts of violence.

Thus, the UBPD has determined that a good portion of the people who disappeared in the region were combatants.

One of the five bodies found recently corresponds to that of a 23-year-old peasant who apparently died in the fighting between the two armed groups.

The request for the search and recovery operation was made by one of the victim’s brothers in January 2022. That person said that the young man “was living in the town of San Luis de Palenque, working in the fields along with his family, and then he served in the military but left the army before his enlistment period was up due to an accident.”

In March 1998, the disappeared man told his relatives that he was going to work with a retired army sergeant and so he went to Yopal, after which his family lost contact with him.

“Days after that and with search efforts by the family stepped up … a member of an armed group told them that (the young man) had died along with four other people in fighting between irregular groups on March 30, 1998. The bodies were buried in the village cemetery,” the UBPD added.

“I thank you very much for keeping us in mind. This is a very good situation. This work that you’ve been doing for us is very important. Also, it invites all those who are victims and have disappeared relatives to turn to this organization that is giving us this help so that, in like manner, they can help them too,” the brother of the young man said.

According to the UBPD, at least 1,973 people disappeared in Casanare amid the armed conflict.

EFE –/bp

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