BUCARAMANGA – Doris Tejada last heard from her son on New Year’s Eve 2007. Óscar Alexander had left her home in central Colombia to travel to a city on the border with Venezuela to earn money selling clothes to help his family after losing his job as a surveyor’s assistant.
Four years later, Tejada said, she felt a chill of premonition while watching a news report on television in which a group of Colombian mothers blamed the military for the murders of their missing children.
“What is happening with their children is the same that is happening to us,” she said that night to her husband, Darío Morales. “They say it is a false positive. I don’t know what that is.”
Tejada and Morales later found out that their son indeed was on the list of the "false positives," victims of extrajudicial executions by soldiers who claimed they were guerrillas killed in combat during the country's internal conflict, which largely ended with the 2016 demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Military members could claim rewards for presenting results — or bodies — in the fight against armed groups.
Relatives of the victims, alleged to number in the thousands, say the investigations into the false-positive killings are not progressing as they would like. More than 10,700 people are under investigation in the ordinary justice system, most of them military members, but only 1,740 of them have been convicted, according to a 2019 report of the Prosecutor’s Office.
The office did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press about the investigations.
In the false positives scandal, as some military members have acknowledged, innocent men were taken to distant places by means of deception, killed and then made out to be criminals defeated in combat.