Colombia: mass graves exhumed in Cauca

At least 18 bodies were found in three mass graves near the pueblo of TacueyĂł in Colombia’s Cauca department over the weekend. The remains were unearthed by forensic experts from the Technical Investigations Unit (CTI) of the FiscalĂ­a, Colombia’s prosecutor general, and are believed to be victims of a guerilla massacre. The first of the graves was discovered by local campesinos while working the land, who informed the authorities. The CTI work was repeatedly interrupted by attacks from gunmen from the nearby mountains. The TacueyĂł Massacre took place between 1985 and 1986, when the village was terrorized by the Ricardo Franco Front, a renegade FARC unit that broke from the guerilla army to join the rival M-19 rebels, but was repudiated by both groups.

In the massacre, it is believed a total of 164 guerilla fighters, sympathizers and their families—including children—were tortured to death under dubious accusations of being government collaborators or CIA spies. The Front’s leader, JosĂ© Fedor Rey Alvarez AKA “Javier Delgado,” was called “The Monster of the Andes” for his exceptional brutality. He was captured by the authorities in 1995 and sentenced to 19 years in prison. In June 2002 he was found dead in his cell, an apparent suicide. It is widely speculated that he was ordered killed by FARC commanders. (Colombia Reports, Radio Sante Fe, Bosotá, Oct. 27; El PaĂ­s, Cali, Oct. 26)

While Colombia’s war goes on in the countryside, the FARC’s military command in the field has been significantly weakened due to the rebel organization’s participation in peace talks in Cuba. FĂ©lix Antonio Muñoz Lascarro AKA “Pastor Alape,” second in command to FARC commander-in-chief “Timochenko,” is the latest addition to the list of high-ranking FARC commanders who have left their military posts in Colombia to join the talks in Havana.

Alape marks the third member of the secretariat, the FARC’s military command, to arrive in Havana, after “Iván Márquez,” who is leading the delegation, and “Pablo Catatumbo.” Also in Havana is “Rodrigo Granda,” an alternate member of the secretariat. Other high-ranking commanders in Havana include “Pacho Chino” of the Alfonso Cano Occidental Bloc in Cauca (named for slain top commander “Alfonso Cano,” Timochenko’s predecessor); JosĂ© Vicente Lesmes AKA “Walter Mendoza,” second-in-command of the Occidental Bloc; Diego Ardila Merchán AKA “Leonel Paz,” the Bloc’s regional commander in Valle del Cauca; and Luis EliĂ©cer Rueda AKA “MatĂ­as Aldecoa,” coordinator of the FARC’s political wing, the Movimiento Bolivariano. Among the more controversial figures at Havana is Henry Castellanos GarzĂłn AKA “Romaña“—known as “El Secuestrador” for overseeing high-profile kidnappings.

“Timochenko” himself remains commander of the Magdalena Medio Bloc, while “Iván Márquez” remains commander of the Caribbean Bloc. “Ivan Marquez” has been in Cuba since the talks began in 2012. His position is in the field is presumably filled by “Bertulfo,” the Caribbean Bloc’s second in command. (Colombia Reports, Oct. 27; El Tiempo, Bogotá, Oct. 24; El Tiempo, Oct. 21)