The scandal of “false positives” is deep. Enough to shock.
Nineteen members of the Armed Forces in Nariño department have been convicted on charges of homicide, forced disappearance, and kidnapping, and face from four to twenty-seven years in prison. They are accused of the murders of twenty-four homeless, undocumented and disabled people who were passed off as guerrillas killed in combat. Related: two other army members who face charges of disappearing another man, an Ecuadorean citizen, have gone into hiding to evade justice. The incidents happened in 2007 and 2008.
In another case, a middle-ranked officer and a soldier are charged with dressing up a seventeen-year-old campesino farmer in fatigues and shooting him four times, also to pass him off as a guerrilla killed in combat. They also allegedly picked up another seventeen-year-old campesino farmer and held him overnight in a police station. The next day, they shot him, and also passed him off as a guerrilla killed in combat. It reportedly happened in Boyacá department between June and July 2004.
In yet another case, a colonel and a lieutenant face fifty-two years in prison for another case of a murdered civilian, a construction worker, passed off as a dead guerrilla. This time in Soacha. In this case, civilian Alexander Carreteo testified he recruited the victim and handed him to the military for 200,000 pesos (about U.S. $90).
The scandals of irregularities in the Armed Forces is much, much worse than it was thought, and it is not getting enough attention. In fact, more than 15,000 military men have been investigated. That’s 3,000 per year in the last five years, according to retired General Jaime Ruiz Barrera, president of the association of retired officers.
The army’s official number is 12,404 currently under investigation. But, the army contends only 1,177 face conviction. General Emilio Torres, head of the army’s human rights office, told El Tiempo, “the convicted represent only 0.01 percent of the 246,000 soldiers.”
The scandals happened throughout Colombia and throughout the last few years, and point to a disgusting culture throughout the armed forces, from soldier to middle-ranked, and up. The fact the victims are Colombia’s most vulnerable — poor, homeless, disabled, or undocumented — says the army has come to think anything goes as long as they show results against the guerrilla. The army is losing its reputation and its support as more cases come to light.