On March 25, 21-year-old Carlos Mejía and a 16-year-old companion were cutting lumber near the river outside the community of La Cooperativa (Cimitarra Valley, Magdalena Medio region). The young men encountered a squad of soldiers from the Colombian Army’s Calibío Battalion and reluctantly agreed to ferry them across the river in their canoe. There, another squad of Calibío soldiers detained, interrogated, and separated the two young men. The 16-year-old managed to escape through the underbrush, evading shots and swimming across the river to safety.
The next morning, 70 community members went to find out what happened to Carlos. The soldiers claimed to know nothing about him, but said they had exchanged fire with two guerrillas, killing one, while the other had escaped. The community insists that Carlos was a civilian and demanded that the Army hand him over.
Carlos’s family is among 250 civilians who left their homes, livestock, and livelihoods because of ongoing military violence. They fled to La Cooperativa, more than tripling its population.
CPTers were present in the community on April 27 when the State Prosecutor and a military judge arrived by helicopter to investigate the killing. Troops from the same Calibío Battalion responsible for Carlos’s death accompanied the investigators.
“No wonder they won’t talk to you,” CPTers told the prosecutor, explaining why Carlos’s family would not meet with him.
“You’re right,” he replied. “They are intimidated.”
The community is asking for a civil, not military, investigation into the death of Carlos and four other civilians. They believe that an internal military judicial process will simply perpetuate impunity.