On Monday, Colombians remember the 21st anniversary of the Chengue municipality massacre, in which the paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) murdered 27 farmers for supporting the then Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
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Under the leadership of paramilitary leader Rodrigo "Cadena" Mercado, 60 AUC members stormed the territory at 4:30 am on Jan. 17, 2001, after passing through military and police checkpoints without being arrested.
The armed group cut the local electric power system, called the farmer by their names, and dragged them out of their residences to the central square. In front of their loved ones, the AUC leaders massacred them with iron hammers and artisanal artifacts known as "Monas,” which serve to break stones.
Subsequently, the paramilitaries set fire to the houses, an action that caused the forced displacement of the population. "It was horrible. We were scared because there was no flight: the AUC members were determined to destroy our lives," survivor Saray Romero stated.
On Oct. 19, 2009, the Fourth Administrative Court of Sincelejo condemned the Colombian State for its failure to protect the Chengue town's inhabitants and determined that the victims' families should receive a US$874 compensation.
The Attorney's General Office declared the massacre a crime against humanity since it considered that such events were sought to coerce innocent civilian population. This institution also charged Mercado with aggravated homicide, conspiracy to commit a crime, robbery, arson, and forced displacement.
However, this paramilitary leader has not served his sentence given that he remains disappeared since 2005, when illegal armed groups started to demobilize.