By Jeimmy Paola Sierra
Medellín, Colombia, Nov 10 (EFE).- In a landfill in Medellín, a group of forensic experts on Thursday started a new search for hundreds of people who disappeared during the armed conflict between 2001 and 2004 in Comuna 13, a neighborhood where hope has resurfaced with the excavations.
After seven years of pause, the Search Unit for Disappeared Persons (UBPD) launched the operation in La Escombrera sector in the company of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) and with the approval of victims’ groups and social organizations.
“It is a day full of expectation, joy and hope when we see that we are going to continue looking for our disappeared,” María Auxilio Arenas, spokesperson for the Women Walking for Truth group, told EFE.
The 72-year-old, who has lived half her life in Comuna 13, joined the group to relieve “a very great depression” caused by the disappearance of her husband Arnoraldo Moreno and the murder of her son Héctor Fabián.
“They left four orphaned children, ages eight, six, four and two,” she said.
In 2015, the Attorney General’s Office carried out a forensic search in an area of the same landfill in which no remains were found and caused uneasiness in the community due to its abrupt interruption.
“It’s been 20 years of struggle, and the fact that this step is taken today fills us with the expectation that it will come to an end,” Arenas said.
The new search, the first phase of which will last until Nov. 25, began with a symbolic act in this area where people were disappeared, especially during Operation Orion 20 years ago in October, the same amount of time that relatives have been demanding answers.
“Digging up the truth, unearthing justice” was the cry of a dozen women who expressed their pain among black silhouettes with messages, flowers and earth.
“Twenty years ago we saw the tanks, the helicopters, hundreds of armed men and others hooded (…) we saw our relatives die and disappear and those responsible still do not accept the facts,” said Luz Ángela Velásquez, who lost her husband Carlos Mario Perez.
JEP magistrate Gustavo Salazar said that determining the number of victims of forced disappearance in Commune 13 has been a “very long” process, but that they reached an initial list of 459 possible victims from between 1981 and 2016 due to the actions of illegal armed groups, as well as of the public forces.
“Since the forced disappearance during the 2002-2003 period was especially serious, we would be talking about 200 forced disappearances during those two years. How many people could be here? We don’t know that, but we are working on that possible [list] of victims, understanding that it is possible that some of them may have been buried in other places,” Salazar said at a press conference.
The magistrate lamented that the State did not show the resolute determination to recognize the extent of the crimes suffered by the residents of Medellín nor accept “the negligence in the face of so much clamor, pain and damage.”
According to forensic anthropologists from the UBPD, in the La Escombrera search they will excavate six areas, work that will take approximately one year and in which they will remove some 40,000 cubic meters of earth and debris. EFE