Taking of Mitú: 24 years from the first time that the Farc took a capital

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The sons of Mitú recruited by the guerillas returned years later to cause the destruction of the indigenous capital of the Amazon and give the group belligerent status in the face of a dialogue table destined to fail

Take of Mitú: 24 years from the first time that the Farc took a capital

The testimonies of the kidnapping victims of this episode, recognized as one of the antecedents of the intensification of the armed conflict, they were witnesses of the inhuman treatment, barracks fenced with barbed wire in which they were locked up and other cruel situations carried out by the extinct Farc. Infobae (Jesús Avilés)

Police Sergeant César Augusto LassoHe was only able to meet his daughter when she was 14 years old, because he was kidnapped when his wife was barely a month pregnant, on November 1, 1998 in the Toma de Mitú. He was just one example of the hundreds of lives cut short by the Farc-EP's demonstration of power at the end of the 20th century and which marked a turning point in the history of the armed conflict in the Amazon region.

The girl had to live her childhood in the midst of her father's forced absence. Meanwhile Lasso spent years of terror, she had malaria five times and came to suffer from leishmaniasis. Since 2002, when Mono Jojoy dressed the camp where he was, and until 2012 he was chained by the neck, according to what he told the former FARC secretariat appearing before the JEP in recognition hearing of case 01, in which the humiliation against the victims of this crime against humanity is investigated. “On many occasions I thought it was better to die and rest,” he said.

The testimonies of the kidnapping victims of that episode, which is recognized as one of the antecedents of the intensification of the armed conflict, they witnessed the inhumane treatment, the barracks fenced with barbed wire in which they were locked up, and other cruel situations that the JEP has attributed to the members of the extinct FARC.

62 policemen were kidnapped during the takeover of Mitu, including 16 high school auxiliaries, 15 of whom belonged to indigenous communities and did not carry weapons. One of the victims, on that date, was doing compulsory military service with social and prevention work, for which she only had a baton. Even so, on the morning of November 1, 1998, the guerrillas entered his house and kidnapped him for two years and eight months.

This fact, according to the report end of the Truth Clarification Commission in its territorial volume for the Amazon, it was the first time that this guerrilla seized a departmental capital. It lasted three days and left a balance of 16 policemen, 24 soldiers and 11 civilians dead, in addition to fifty members of the public force kidnapped.

Most were released in June 2001 without the consideration of humanitarian exchange, as was one of the interests of the insurgency, by an agreement with the government in Caguan. But the seven officers and non-commissioned officers remained in the hands of the guerrillas.

Two uniformed officers are still missing: Mayor Luis Hernando Peña Bonilla, who was reportedly killed in captivity in 2003 by order of the ex-guerrilla alias Martín Sombra, but his body has not been found; and patrolman Byron Murcia Canencio, who was kidnapped during the takeover, but whose fate is unknown.

“Lieutenant Colonel Julián Ernesto Guevara died in captivity in 2006 due to an untreated illness. His body was handed over to the family in April 2010. Subintendent Jhon Frank Pinchao successfully escaped in 2007, walked through the jungle for around fifteen days and finally got his freedom, reunited with his family and wrote a book about. Major Javier Vianney Rodríguez was released in the Jaque operation in 2008, while General Luis Herlindo Mendieta Ovalle and Colonel Enrique Murillo were released in the Camaleón operation in 2010. Sergeant César Augusto Lasso< /b> He was unilaterally released by the FARC-EP in April 2012. He was one of the last members of the Public Force to be released,” said the JEP.

Take of Mitú: 24 years from the first time the Farc took a capital

Proof of life Sergeant César Augusto Lasso

But the victims of the capture of the capital of Vaupés were not only the policemen who received the violent attack.

According to the Truth Commission report, in the 1990s the FARC consolidated in the Colombian Amazon, which includes the departments of Putumayo, Caquetá, Guaviare, Vaupés and Amazonas. It had arrived a decade earlier in the midst of the boom in coca crops to, through blood and fire, become the structure that controlled illicit production in that area of ​​the country.

< b>In 1988 the first attack was carried out on the Mitú police stationwith about 100 guerrillas who subdued the 30 uniformed men who were in the jungle capital. There were no deaths, but the State's response was to militarize the city, which produced displacement, stigmatization, murder of civilians, and sexual violence.

One ​​person recounted that in mid-1989, while He was walking with his girlfriend, a police officer stopped them, threatened them with a revolver, and raped the woman. A situation that other couples experienced and that motivated him and the others to join the ranks of the Farc. The foregoing, according to the CEV, produced resentment among some people and distrust in the State.

In the seventh guerrilla conference (1982) the entry of people from the age of 15 had been defined. Alias ​​Fernando Pate Sopa, FARC commander in the area, has acknowledged that between 1995 and 2002 he recruited at least 700 minors in Mitú, a situation that for the CEV cannot be understood without the role of Catholic boarding schools.

“… the FARC-EP already recruited in boarding schools, taking advantage of the disruption that these create in the lives of minors by removing them from their communities< /b>and favoring the oblivion of the symbolic thought of the Yurupari. The María Reina Indigenous Boarding School in Mitú, the José Eustasio Rivera School (COLJER) in the 13 de Junio ​​Community –in front of the urban center of Mitú-, and the Mitú Night Cooperative School, all were affected by massive recruitment”, it was concluded in the final report.

Systematic recruitment in the area was carried out to strengthen the fronts against attacks on military bases. With parties, promises of money and based on social inequalities and their power among communities, the insurgents attracted young people to their ranks. Most of them indigenous due to the presence of this population in the southern territories of the country. Several of them were transferred to Putumayo and those from this area to Vaupés.

Several of those young recruits returned to their city years later to take over Mitu, due to his knowledge of the area, which produced profound consequences in the community.

“For this reason, the people of the town remember the event with sadness and pain, and do not understand why their own daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, relatives and neighbors were in uniform participating in the destruction of the town,” the CEV report said.

In 1993, at its Eighth Conference, the guerrillas reaffirmed their decision to seize power by force of arms while the conflict intensified at the national level. By 1998, President Andrés Pastrana had opened talks with the FARC and this organization, in order to acquire a belligerent status, decided to undertake the taking of Mitú as a way of showing its power in a population that it practically already dominated.

In 1997, the FARC controlled the tributaries of the Apaporis and Vaupés rivers for the transport of coca base paste. They settled in multiple communities and located two main camps in Puerto Vaupés and in Bosca del Yi. The insurgent commanders gathered in the latter, including Mono Jojoy, to structure, as recorded on video, the so-called Operation Marquetalia.

The Eastern Bloc brought together 1,500 guerrillas to undertake the takeover in the early morning after Children's Day that had been celebrated, as in the whole country, in that indigenous capital. It was a siege with pipettes full of dynamite and inflammables, bullets and gas cylinders that began with the Police Station and ended up destroying the town.

The guerrillas made use of the indigenous people to guide them in the operation, open the trails from Carurú to Mitú through which the troops would pass and make the maps of the Police Station. Likewise, of the children, as in the Yuruparí boarding school, where they forced the minors to carry the boxes of ammunition and supplies and cylinders that they would use in the takeover.

According to the Commission, 76 policemen fought entrenched in the station for 12 hours. In the middle of the attack, the guerrillas evacuated the neighboring houses to use the cylinders and avoid the death of civilians. However, in the midst of this situation, María Beatriz Tovar was murdered after refusing to leave her home. Her crime has not been clarified.

11 civilians were killed, but her death , according to the CEV, has not been clarified. The Farc have recognized the murder of the Calderón brothers. whom they accused of having ties to paramilitaries and who had been declared targets during the operation, as well as another person in the midst of the evictions. But there are also victims of crossfire.

After more than 12 hours of constant fire, the guerrillas found the police hiding in the tunnels of the station, outnumbered and weaponry. Although the rumor of the subversive operation was known, the national Government and the Military Forces, and even the CIA, had dismissed that the FARC had the capacity to take over a city,they did not pay attention to the warnings and nobody anticipated their occurrence.

Even in the retake operation that took place 72 hours later, it was evident that the State had forgotten the region. A non-commissioned officer who was at the Seventh Brigade military base and who participated in the response operation told the Commission that the city did not appear on military maps.

“The planning began, but we noticed that there was an absence, there were no letters, aerial photographs, nothing. We show the absence of the State. There was no information on what Mitú was like, so they had to go to a policeman who had been in Mitú and now lived in Villavicencio. On a blackboard he graphed the town, the river, the adjacent places, the urban area”, he said.

This ignorance gave the guerrillas advantages over the military units that arrived by land, but the main attack was carried out by air. The retake operation was called Angel's Flight,because it deployed the support of the Air Force with bombings that ended up destroying the town and that started from a runway in Bocas de Querarí in Brazil.

Dozens of civilians, soldiers and hundreds of guerrillas died in the ensuing confrontation. The bodies of the insurgents were buried in common areas that forever changed the relationship of the inhabitants with the territory. The city of Mitú was destroyed and its people, fearful, in the middle of a permanent crossfire. They even had to dig trenches in their houses to take shelter.

“Starting in 2001, the explosions, the soldiers dragging ditches on community property, the antipersonnel mines, The threats, the military harassment of the women, and in general the fear and anxiety caused the people of the community to also experience the confinement and consequently hunger and sadness,” the Commission pointed out. It also found that minors were impregnated by soldiers who never vouched for their children.

The State turned its eyes to that region and the Ombudsman's Office issued that year the first early warning for the harassment, but the violence increased. Combat, recruitment, the installation of anti-personnel mines on roads and indigenous territories, as well as restrictions on the mobility of the inhabitants, increased.

The displacement gave rise to the first land restitution process in the Amazon territory, which is located in Villavicencio. Well, “the situation was so difficult that the population of Puerto Vaupés was completely displaced and in Mitú Cachivera only two families remained. Due to the internal armed conflict, the Cubeo, Tucano, Desano, Tuyuca, Tatuyo, Wanano, Carapano, Piratapuyo, Tariano, Makuna, Siriano, Makú, Jiw, Yurutí and Bará peoples of the Arara, Bacatí, Carurú and Lagos de Jamaicurú reservation were displaced ”, pointed out the Commission.

The stigmatization also affected several towns, such as Bocas del Yi, which was designated as an area of ​​affinity with the insurgency, which served to deny access to basic services. State institutions denied care to several people and the Vaupés Regional Indigenous Council saw its ability to visit several communities limited due to the danger.

“The Cultural experiences were transformed by the war, as well as the ways of appropriating uses and customs, and this impacted their ability to feed themselves, heal themselves, enjoy the territory, and interact with other communities. In this way, the shared root in the origin of these towns was broken, so linked to the generational replacement of leaders and the transfer of ancient knowledge and forms of social organization, as well as to exchanges of various kinds between communities”, concluded the Commission.