10 YEARS SINCE THE MASSACRE IN MAPIRIPAN
Translation by the Center for International Policy
Sent by the
José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective
Summary of Crime:
On July 12, 1997, two planes leaving from the airports in Apartadó and Necoclí along the Caribbean
coast flew more than one hundred heavily-armed paramilitaries to the San José del Guaviare airport
in the central plains of Colombia. On their day and half journey to the town of Mapiripán, Meta, they
passed –without any problem whatsoever- through countless army and police checkpoints, including
the checkpoint in front of the Barrancon base where US special forces trained their Colombian
counterparts. Then, from July 15 to 20, these paramilitary forces proceeded to detain, torture,
execute, and disappear at least 49 persons in the town of Mapiripán. During this time, the
Colombian State refused to come to the aid of the civilian population.
“We don’t even want you to bury this one” 
Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo”
July 13, 2007
According to what I heard, those gentlemen appeared at six in the morning on Monday, dressed like
soldiers, so the town thought that the Army had arrived. They banged on the door looking for him by
his nickname, “Catumare.” He didn’t want to open the door for them, and even tried to escape
through the water tank in the bathroom. He had just bathed, he wasn’t wearing sandals or a shirt.
They got him in his shop on the corner, while they looted everything there. They flipped over the
sofa and turned everything upside down. Later they let him come in so he could put on his shirt and
shoes - but not his sandals, because they were going to have to walk far. When he asked them to
give back what they had taken, they told him that he wouldn’t need anything where he was going,
not to worry, he should leave all that to the poor. That is how they took him away.
My father had bought me a house, so that I could be there with my children. After all, they were his
grandchildren, and he wanted to have them near. He had even spoken with the school, and
everything was ready for that week. But I called Monday, and nobody answered, the same as Tuesday
and Wednesday. The next day the news was on the radio. There had been a massacre in Mapiripán,
and he was among the victims.
Tuesday, it is said, they walked him all over the town. With his arms behind him, he watched
everyone out of the corners of his eyes, under his hat. When they came to the “El Ganadero” billiard
hall, they asked him where he kept the rest of his money, that he was the richest old man in town.
When they got to the place, they took away everything. They were so brazen that they even took
away a chess set that my son had given him the previous Christmas. After that day, they spent their
time in there, from morning to night. What they didn’t spend, they threw away.
My old man was the only one who legally raised us. He sent me bananas and other groceries from
Mapiripán. He also sent money to pay for my children’s school. Every month he gave me 200 or 300
thousand pesos [at the time, US$130-200], and in addition to that, for example every two months,
he would come to town and give me another remittance - so that the children don’t go hungry, he
said. He bought milk and baby food for the newborn baby. Later he would tell me not to worry, that
he was putting together a little house in town, so that I could live there with my children and they
could play in the yard.
Wednesday night, the town could feel it. After the power was cut off, they heard how he was
martyred. “Kill me if you are going to, but don’t do all this to me,” he apparently said. He was the
only person they heard crying out that night.
My father was like a culebrero [roughly, “medicine man”]. If you told him you needed a pill, he would
ask, “What [illness] do you have?” And right there, he would have the drug. He sold everything there
is. There was nothing you could ask for that he would not have. He went up and down the whole
Guaviare River with that boat full of any kind of thing. Upriver, downriver, he was sometimes gone
for fifteen days taking cheap clothes, food, panela [solid raw sugar], all kinds of food.
That Saturday, the town awoke in silence. Some curious boys who happened near the Guaviare River
saw him. They had cut his testicles off, they had cut him into pieces, everything was all lying there.
But nobody could do anything, because the order was that whoever touched him would be killed.
Once, while chatting at the dinner table, my oldest child told him that he wanted to be a soldier.
Then my papa said to him, “Not by the son of a pig are you going to be that. Are you stupid, are you
going to give yourself to the government? Don’t you see that the government is the biggest thief!!!
Be an architect instead.” He was so intent that my children stay with him, that in those days we went
to speak with a guy - he was the director of the hospital - about giving them computer classes. “I
may have to buy the computers, but here my kids are going to have everything.” He also bought
them two motor scooters, so that they could go from here to school, because it was very far and so
that they did not have to bother with so much walking.
At dawn on Sunday, when all those people had finally gone, some people from the town went to see
if they could retrieve the bodies from the river. They tried to pull them in with sticks, trying to reach
them… but they could not. My papa was among them. But those people returned, and asked whether
those gathered there wanted the same thing to happen to them. Then they cut open his stomach -
he was already dead - and filled it with stones. They picked him up like a colt and threw him again,
this time far into the river, apparently because “We don’t even want you to bury this one…” I don’t
know why they were so especially merciless toward him.
As far as I know, my old man was the only one they robbed. As far as I know, my father’s properties
were the only ones that they practically destroyed. As far as I know, all their hatred fell on my papa.
He was the first person they took when they arrived in the town, asking for “Catumare,” because they
didn’t even know his real name.
All this, because he was a leader of the Patriotic Union. And I knew nothing about this. I still
remember like it was yesterday, one day, when I was a girl, he told me that when I turned fifteen he
would buy me a big house, so that when I got married or went to live with a man, I would always be
able to throw him away.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621