Human Rights violations perpetrated by the Colombian State
In Colombia, the military phrase false positive is associated with those civilians who have been assassinated by the governmental armed forces as if they were members of the insurgency; a repeating phenomenon throughout the years which was unveiled due to unfathomable aggressions against the civilian populations perpetrated by the Colombian army.
Historically, the political opposition in Colombia has been persecuted by the State. Its tools for social control have been (amongst others) forced disappearance, the paramilitary strategy and a growing militarization of society.
Now the Colombian State prefers to talk about a post-conflict and about economic opening in favour of those companies which have big interests in the country, but the guerrillas are still active and the terror dynamics generated mostly by the State itself keep on surfacing, highlighting the constant Human Rights violations.
Two examples of the legacy of the terror politics, contemporaneous to the photographic report, are the clandestine cemetery in La Macarena and the false positives of Soacha.
In 2010, one of the biggest clandestine cemeteries of Latin America (some suggest it is a mass grave) was discovered in the Meta department*. It contains hundreds of unidentified bodies, in an area next to the military base set up a few years earlier. The arrival of special groups of the army in the region coincides with the disappearances of farmers, social leaders and those defending community rights, and it is estimated that a large percentage of the bodies belong to civilians eliminated by soldiers and treated as guerrilla fighters killed in combat.
The increasing militarization of the society in Colombia, promoted by the democratic security policy carried out by Álvaro Uribe Vélez, also had consequences in the city which lies next to Bogotá: the peripheral settlement called Soacha**. So as to intensify the pressure against the insurgency and its supporters, Juan Manuel Santos (the then Defence Minister and current President) and his circle decided to give incentives such as money and holidays to the soldiers who killed the highest number of enemies. These incentives inspired members of the army to attract, with promises of work, 19 teenagers belonging to the poor and peripheral areas of Bogotá, taking them hundreds of miles away (to the Santander department) where they took their lives and later dressed them in combat clothes so as to depict them as dead guerrillas fighters, killed in combat, and thus scoop up the incentives.
Perhaps these two cases were the most high-profile ones but it is estimated that in Colombia there are hundreds of hidden mass graves and the echo of the false positives phenomenon doesn’t cease to repeat, whether in Antioquia, Boyacá, El Huila, El Valle or Sucre. The overall strategy, whether so as to obtain military results, hit the opposition or generate profits, was implemented by the paramilitary groups and taken in by the State’s own armed forces.
The False Positive project is intended as a megaphone for those who suffered beneath the blows of the Colombian State’s violence, historically silenced.
Of all the things I experienced during my stay in the country, one of the things which sticks in mind most is the slogan shouted by mothers during an event in favour of historical memory: Why? Why do they assassinate us if we are the hope of Latin America?