Sep 9, 2019

Searching for the 80,000 Disappeared in Colombia’s Brutal Civil War

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SAN JOSE DEL GUAVIARE, COLOMBIA — Cerafín Méndez was out drinking one night when a fight broke out with his neighbor. The next day, three FARC soldiers came for him, bound his hands, and led him away.

That was the last time his family would see him alive.

“I was worried he had been left in the bush and eaten by animals, as if he were a dog,” said his wife, Miriam Méndez. “20 days passed, a month and nothing, nothing was found.”

Thirty years later, Méndez was finally given some closure when the Colombian government successfully identified her husband’s remains, and scheduled an event to bring them home for a proper burial.

“I finally feel like my mind was put to rest. Knowing his final location makes us feel less like he was abandoned alone,” Méndez’s daughter Mary told VICE News. “Before this, it was like he was forgotten in time.”

Méndez’s story isn’t uncommon in Colombia. More than 80,000 Colombians were violently disappeared at the hands of Guerrilla groups, armed gangs, and government forces during a half century of civil war. And for decades, their cases went cold, ignored or out of reach of authorities.

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