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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-11-10 04:35 PM
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In search of Colombia's disappeared
In search of Colombia's disappeared
New report reveals the hidden human tragedy of the 30,000 'disappeared' in Colombia

The weathered face of Colombian farmer Blanca Nieves Meneses is overcome by sorrow as she stands before four small coffins. She has been looking for her daughters for 10 years, ever since they were "disappeared" by the paramilitaries in Putumayo, south Colombia. But now all that is left of her girls, the youngest of whom was only 13, are bones. Her only remaining daughter, Nancy, is with her mother at the ceremony and says, between sobs: "I never thought that this is the way they would be returned to me."

Colombian victims of forced disappearances, and their families, have long been overlooked. In a country where the death toll from assassinations, massacres, criminal murders and battlefield casualties where there are bodies is so high, disappearances have remained out of focus.

Mention disappearances in the Latin American context and most people think mainly about Argentina, where some 30,000 people were disappeared during the dirty war, or Chile, where 3,000 people were killed or disappeared. Yet, a new report by the US Office on Colombia and the Latin America working group education fund, Breaking the Silence: In search of Colombia's disappeared, reveals that there are around 30,000 forced disappearances registered in Colombia. However, the total number is likely to be much higher as many cases have yet to be recorded in a still relatively new national database, and many disappearances are not registered at all.

In Colombia, victims of forced disappearances include human rights defenders, trade unionists, Afro-Colombian and indigenous people and poor rural farmers and their families.

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