The ‘false positives’ scandal that felled Colombia’s military hero

When the Colombian army defeated the Farc guerrillas, ending decades of conflict, General Mario Montoya was hailed a national hero. But then it was revealed that thousands of ‘insurgents’ executed by the army were in fact innocent men On a chilly October afternoon in 2008, Jacqueline Castillo found herself staring down into a mass grave in Colombia’s northern region of Santander. Five bodies, naked and dirty, were squeezed together like sacks of potatoes. Forensic doctors, wearing white suits, masks and rubber gloves, were pulling them out, one by one. They placed them beside her, and asked her to examine their faces. Castillo was looking for her brother, Jaime, who had disappeared a few months earlier in Bogotá, more than 600km away. His was the last body they pulled out. When he was placed on the ground next to her, Castillo fell to her knees, screaming. The doctors told her he was a criminal, a member of one of the many guerrilla armies that had been fighting the Colombian state since the mid-1960s, and that he had been killed in combat. But Castillo knew that was impossible. Her brother had been a homeless beggar, not a guerrilla insurgent. Continue reading...

When the Colombian army defeated the Farc guerrillas, ending decades of conflict, General Mario Montoya was hailed a national hero. But then it was revealed that thousands of ‘insurgents’ executed by the army were in fact innocent men On a chilly October afternoon in 2008, Jacqueline Castillo found herself staring down into a mass grave in Colombia’s northern region of Santander. Five bodies, naked and dirty, were squeezed together like sacks of potatoes. Forensic doctors, wearing white suits, masks and rubber gloves, were pulling them out, one by one. They placed them beside her, and asked her to examine their faces. Castillo was looking for her brother, Jaime, who had disappeared a few months earlier in Bogotá, more than 600km away. His was the last body they pulled out. When he was placed on the ground next to her, Castillo fell to her knees, screaming. The doctors told her he was a criminal, a member of one of the many guerrilla armies that had been fighting the Colombian state since the mid-1960s, and that he had been killed in combat. But Castillo knew that was impossible. Her brother had been a homeless beggar, not a guerrilla insurgent. Continue reading...