An atrocious crime reappears in Colombia, a country where all kinds of death squads have never stopped operating, their worst ghosts. The still confusing murder of two Venezuelan teenagers, one of them barely 12 years old and the other 18, who had been accused of robbing in Tibú, a municipality in the troubled border region of Catatumbo, where various armed groups operate, has shaken people society and exposed, for the umpteenth time, the weakness of the Colombian State. The UN has asked that what happened be clarified.
According to information from local media and several videos that have circulated on social networks, the two young men were arrested last Friday by civilians, apparently merchants, and accused of stealing from a clothing and grocery store. In the images they are seen tied with a kind of adhesive tape. “Unfortunately they are very young boys, we don’t want to see them lying on the side of the roads. They are under our responsibilities, so we are going to hand them over to the authorities ”, one of the recordings can be heard.
But they were never in the custody of the public force, which ignored the merchants’ calls. Instead, armed men took them away on motorcycles, according to testimonies. A few hours later their bodies were found shot with their hands tied, that of the youngest shot in the head and lying on a road in a pool of blood. The boy was still wearing his red backpack and a sign around his neck with the word “thieves.”
The police, who offered a reward of 100 million pesos (about 23,000 euros) for information about those responsible, was quick to point out the dissidents of the FARC (or Gaor, for Residual Organized Armed Groups, as the military jargon calls them ). Colonel Carlos Martínez, police commander in Norte de Santander, announced an internal investigation into the response of the soldiers, while the Prosecutor’s Office also appointed a specialized group of investigators. Many other voices have highlighted that the episode has the characteristics of the paramilitary actions that the country has suffered in the midst of the armed conflict of more than half a century that it is trying to close.
“We condemn the murder of a 12-year-old boy in Tibú, Norte de Santander. We express condolences to his family. We urge the authorities to investigate these events. We call for respect for the life and protection of children, ”said the Colombian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Ombudsman’s Office also asked the authorities for “clarity” and “speed”. That of the UN was one of the first reactions as part of a wave of rejection that has included several presidential candidates.
“The murder of two young men in Tibú shows the paramilitary violence that has become a habit, legitimized in many ways. Two lives cut short that summarize our main challenge for the future: recovering territorial security and generating opportunities for millions of young people, ”wrote the aspiring center Alejandro Gaviria in his networks. “Piercing. The total absence of the State. A society that takes justice into its own hands, that does not respect life, and a State that does not offer opportunities to girls, boys and young people. Nothing justifies violence, ”said the former mayor of Medellín, Sergio Fajardo. “The murder of these children shows that the state in Tibú is at the service of paramilitarism and crime,” said the leftist Gustavo Petro, leader of the polls for the 2022 elections, who replicated the strong images of the bodies.
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Tibú, in the department of Norte de Santander, on the porous border of more than 2,200 kilometers with Venezuela, concentrates 19,000 hectares of coca crops – according to UN measurements – and is the heart of Catatumbo, a region of jungle geography and mountainous. It is the epicenter of disputes between an archipelago of criminal groups that include the ELN guerrillas, the remnants of the EPL, and dissidents that withdrew from the peace process sealed five years ago with the FARC. In the nineties, the paramilitaries confessed that they murdered thousands of peasants and made them disappear in cremation ovens. Two years ago, a Human Rights Watch report on human rights violations in Catatumbo detailed how Venezuelan migrants are cannon fodder for the armed groups that recruit them as ‘raspachines’, as coca leaf collectors are known. .
In the midst of the deteriorating security climate that affects different parts of Colombia, Cúcuta, the capital of the department, has also been the scene of two attacks in recent months. There, the dissidents detonated a car bomb against an army brigade in June, and days later fired rifle rounds at the helicopter in which President Iván Duque was traveling.
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