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  • A woman cries in front of photographs of disappeared family members in Medellin, Colombia, March 15, 2013.

    A woman cries in front of photographs of disappeared family members in Medellin, Colombia, March 15, 2013. | Photo: Reuters

Published 31 August 2016
Opinion

Almost 65,000 people are unaccounted for, according to official estimates.

Relatives of the thousands of people "disappeared" during Colombia's five-decades long armed conflict asked for their loved ones not be forgotten as the government of President Manuel Santos reached an historic peace accord with FARC guerillas.

IN DEPTH:
International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances

At a commemoration event for the International Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearance—and the Colombian government calculates that 64,920 people are unaccounted for—men, women and children gathered in Bogota to remind the state of the "historic debt" of trying to find their relatives and returning their remains to them.

"Today we have a slogan that ... we will not forget the disappeared during peace time," said Janet Bautista, director of a foundation named after Nydia Erika Bautista, who went missing on Aug. 30, 1987, and who also suffered the loss of her friend, both of whom were guerrillas with the M-19 organization which demobilized in 1990.

"Today more than ever the country, the state has to pay that historic debt it has with the disappeared and with their relatives to seriously look for them, to find them and to return them to us, and above all to guarantee that the children and young people in the future may go out in the street without fear of going missing," she added.

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The downtown Bogota site where the National Museum of Memory will be erected was the scene selected by relatives, members of social organizations and activists to stage a "symbolic sowing" of people and seek a catharsis to recall the victims of forced disappearance.

"We're sowing our bodies so that here in Bogota they take notice that we have more than 45,000 disappeared around the country," said Luz Marina Bernal, the mother of Fair Leonardo Porras, a young mentally disabled man who was falsely counted among the combat dead in an army operation.

Maria Jose Pizarro, the daughter of the assassinated leader of M-19, Carlos Pizarro, said that the event in Bogota is one way to "create a social awareness ... of forced disappearance."

"Part of building a stable and lasting peace is ... (ensuring) the country knows the dimension of its own tragedy, acknowledges the pain ... that its citizens experienced," said National Museum of Memory director Martha Nubia Abello.

After more than five decades of armed conflict the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, signed a peace accord on Aug. 24 after almost four years of negotiations in Havana.

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