A new analysis at colombiapeace.org tries to explain in English what looks like a serious case of human rights abuse committed by a U.S.-aided military unit in the part of Colombia where “Plan Colombia” began 21 years ago.
The Guardian called it a “botched army raid.” An Indigenous group called it a “massacre.” The commander of Colombia’s army insisted that it took place “with strictest observance of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
Early on the morning of March 28, dozens of people were gathered in a communal space in the town of Alto Remanso, near the Ecuador border in Colombia’s southern department of Putumayo. They had been partying all night, the ground littered with beer cans. Speakers were still blasting music. It was the third day of a community “bazaar,” a festival to raise money to pave a nearby stretch of dirt road.
Just after 7:00 AM, shots rang out. Community members say that men dressed in black, shouting “we’re not the security forces,” fired at the gathering. Some people at the bazaar—almost certainly members of an ex-FARC dissident group active in the area—returned fire. Shooting continued for at least an hour and a half. At that point, helicopters arrived, and the townspeople were shocked to find out that the black-clad invaders were Colombian soldiers.
The piece addresses 14 questions:
- What happened?
- What was the human toll of the operation?
- Were those killed combatants, or civilians?
- What is the security situation in Putumayo?
- Do the military units involved receive U.S. aid?
- Did this operation violate International Humanitarian Law?
- Did the soldiers wear black outfits and say they weren’t the Army?
- Did the Army delay or deny urgent medical assistance?
- Was the scene tampered with?
- What happened to the money and the whiskey?
- Are credible investigations happening?
- What is the humanitarian situation now for community residents?
- What does this mean for politics and civil-military relations in Colombia?