Colombia: Paramilitary forces might have made 800 bodies of missing persons disappear in the Cauca River

On August 21st 2013, Verdad Abierta reported that Ramiro Vanoy, alias ‘Cuco Vanoy’ an ex-paramilitary chief in Colombia, revealed from his place of detention in the U.S., that his men exhumed the bodies of missing persons, and threw them in the Cauca river in Antioquia to make them disappear. The families of these victims of enforced disappearance still await for the truth about their whereabouts.


According to Vanoy’s confession, about 120 bodies were exhumed and thrown into the river. The paramilitary leader gave the order to do so after learning, during the peace negotiations with government, that the prosecutors planned exhumations in the area.

However, the prosecutors’ investigations indicate that other illegal exhumation of corpses were carried out in the same area, and that around 800 bodies could have been thrown into the river.

In the records of the Office of the Justice and Peace prosecutor, 1,200 cases of enforced disappearances are registered in the area. However, there have been only 143 exhumations, which have permitted the identification and delivery of 56 bodies to their families. The task of clarifying the whereabouts of the victims of this paramilitary group is hence only starting. Its continuation is threatened by insecurity in the area, and by the difficulty of obtaining the testimony of the perpetrators who, often, have joined again illegal armed groups.