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For Bogotanos, news of the hijacking of a public bus burst the boundaries of what had become high, but familiar levels of crime. On May 25, 1994, seven men and one woman boarded a public bus on Avenida Boyacá, a main artery. For the next several hours, the bus was driven through the darkening streets as the assailants robbed their hostages and raped two of the women. The speedy capture of the gang four days later did nothing to quench the thirst for vengeance expressed by the crowd that gathered at the police station where they were held, screaming for the use of the death penalty, illegal in Colombia. 11

Crime, insecurity, fear — these are everyday themes in conversation, on the radio, in family gatherings. Along with being the capital of the country and, at eight million, by far the largest concentration of people in the country, Bogotá is the capital of Colombian crime. In 1992, police recorded 66,008 crimes within the city limits, from homicide to car theft, assault, armed robbery, and rape. 12 Medellín, Colombia's second-largest city and infamous for its connection to the cocaine trade, recorded less than one-third this number. 13 Bogotá homicides increased 21 percent in 1993 alone, a total of 5,912 murders, most committed with guns according to the Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses, the coroner's office. 14

Most individuals have few defenses against crime. Far from being seen as society's protectors, Colombian police are often viewed as hoodlums. Repeatedly, government investigators and human rights groups have found evidence tying police to crimes and human rights violations. 15 In Bogotá, a study by the mayor's Oficina Permanente de Derechos Humanos (Permanent Human Rights Office) found that one quarter of the complaints they received between March 1993 and March 1994 involved police, implicated in attempted murders, beatings, and illegal searches. 16

One newspaper editorialist made the following summary as 1993 closed:

Along Avenida Circunvalar gangs of thugs put up roadblocks to commit their crimes. During peak traffic hours public busses are assaulted. Over the past two months at least six bank branches have been robbed while they were open and in the last general assembly the president of the National Association of Financial Institutions decried the fact that many of the assailants in these cases were police agents... All along the Northern Highway, bands of highwaymen scatter nails along different exits and entries all night long and put up barricades to stop vehicles and rob and kill their occupants. 17

To foil criminals, the wealthy hire private guards and encase themselves behind bristling glass, bullet-proof cars, and barbed wire. But no precaution is foolproof. A trip to the store means running across a gang of gamines. 18 Business suffers when drug addicts lounge at the entrance, unmolested by police. Muggings at bus stops occur in broad daylight. In a crime-beset atmosphere and unable to count on the government or police for solutions, many Colombians feel overwhelmed.

The perception of out-of-control crime is one of the factors human rights groups say is behind the phenomenon of so-called "limpieza social," or "social cleansing" killings and their widespread acceptance in many communities. In Colombia, "social cleansing" is understood as the serial killing of members of a social group in order to "clean out" or "impose order" on a criminal or unsightly populace. Those who organize and carry out these killings have included local residents, merchants, and police.

Attacks are not levelled against individuals but groups identified as worthless or a danger to society, often referred to as desechables, or disposable people. A significant number of the victims are children. Of the 1,926 "social cleansing" killings registered by the Center for Research and Popular Education (CINEP) from 1988 through 1993, 124 were children, most gamines. CINEP believes more killings may have gone unregistered. 19

However, we believe that a factor more important than the frequency of crime in understanding why "social cleansing" killings occur are concrete and identifiable government actions. While "social cleansing" killings cannot be called a government policy approved at the highest levels, there is convincing evidence that they take place with the participation or approval of some local authorities and police and military commanders. 20 Bolstering this practice is the long-term trend in Colombian society, permitted or openly abetted by the authorities, of turning to "private justice" to hunt perceived enemies. 21

Perhaps the most compelling reason why "social cleansing" killings persist is official impunity, which is systematic and pervasive. 22 Impunity encourages vigilante violence by crime victims who see no alternative in the justice system. Paired with inaction to protect the targets of "social cleansing" from organized extermination, impunity ensures that "social cleansing" squads continue their night rounds unimpeded.

Along with gamines, the targets for "social cleansing" squads include adult trash recyclers, 23 prostitutes (heterosexual, homosexual, and transvestite), the mentally ill, thieves, and the indigent. But those who work with children say that the young are particularly vulnerable. Although there are no hard figures available, the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) estimates that along with Mexico City, Bogotá is the Latin American city with the most gamines, about 1,500, most boys. 24 Some take to the streets as young as five because of abuse within the home, on the increase throughout Colombia. 25

They are easily identified by their grime-stiffened clothing and matted hair. Often alone and lacking in experience, some have not yet developed the survival skills necessary to live on the street. Because children are often drugged, their reaction time can be fatally slow. Among the most frequent drugs used by gamines are bazuco, the highly addictive residue left from the fabrication of cocaine, and industrial glue, known by the brand names of "Boxer" and "Sacol." 26

Children buy glue from corner stores, street vendors, and each other. Kept in small bottles or plastic bags, it has the consistency and color of rubber cement. When Leonardo*, 27 a tiny gamín interviewed by Human Rights Watch/Americas, drew his bottle from his sleeve to sniff, a look of dazed pleasure suffused his face. A lively, curious boy, Leonardo was transformed into a somnolent heap of rags, oblivious to the chatter of the other children around him. 28

One social worker put it this way in an interview: "Sometimes, it's a question of knowing when to duck and to run. Often, the kids just don't know. So they're the ones who die." 29


Frankie has been on the street since he was eight years old. 30 Now a convicted murderer at twenty-three, he says his mother died of an illegal abortion and his father was killed in the service of a drug trafficker. Like most gamines, Frankie learned early to smoke the bazuco he buys with his nightly earnings as a mugger. Two bazuco cigarettes cost him 200 pesos, about twenty-five cents.

Frankie has survived three "social cleansing" attempts on his life. He says policemen dressed in civilian clothes shot at him from a motorcycle as he slept on the street three years ago. A year later, the same thing happened. Last November, he was smoking bazuco with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Corrales Suárez, known as "La Negra," when a black BMW sedan skidded to a stop near their cambuche, sleeping spot. In the ensuing gunfire, Corrales was killed. Frankie now has a plastic vent in his throat from the operation to extract a bullet. 31

Later, a friend gathered the six bullet shells left from the attack and gave them to police to investigate, an effort that has yet to produce a suspect. When asked why he would be the target of attacks, Frankie shrugs. "It's because they hate indigents."

For Frankie, "they" means the police and the men he thinks pay them to kill street people. The first time he was tortured by police, he says, was when he was fifteen. In the station, they kicked him and forced his head underwater. 32 Kept naked in a cold basement cell, they beat him with a stick soaked in water. After dousing his body with water, they clipped wires attached to an electric cable to his testicles. They punched him in the stomach after putting a plastic bag over his head, forcing him to gulp in air. 33

A study of the "social cleansing" phenomenon by CINEP researcher Carlos Rojas pinpoints its beginnings in the town of Pereira (Risaralda) in 1979. 34 There, members of the local Security Council (Consejo de Seguridad), which included the local police and military chiefs, the mayor, and other authorities, decided to begin marking the hands and faces of thieves with indelible red ink. After one thief seriously injured himself while attempting to remove the ink with muriatic acid, the measure was abolished. 35

Over the next several months, however, the bodies of sixty-two known thieves, former thieves, and others turned up at an isolated spot on the outskirts of town. All were killed execution-style, with hands tied and a bullet to the temple. Rapidly, the technique spread to other urban centers. In Calarcá (Quindío), indigents were hung from trees and tortured with knives. 36 Biblical revenge appeared to motivate the mutilation of one body in Medellín (Antioquia), left with eyes and tongue cut out. 37 Morning commuters in Barranquilla (Atlántico) would find the bodies of transvestites thrown to the side of the road, their faces scored with knife slashes. In Valle, a police patrol was put on the Cauca River to fish out the naked bodies that hung up on brush and sandbars. 38

Rojas theorizes that the idea of "social cleansing" grew out of profound changes in Colombian society. Massive migration from the countryside to the city, economic recession, family break-up, persistent political conflict, and the growth of the cocaine trade — with its custom of settling disputes at gunpoint — are some of the factors he says contributed to an increase in crime, homelessness, and a perception that the state could no longer deal with threats to individual security. 39

As serious, the judicial system, despite repeated reforms, has proved incapable of investigating and punishing crime. A Planeación Nacional (National Planning) investigation released in 1994 found that only 3 percent of the crimes committed in Colombia ever reach a judicial verdict, an astonishing two verdicts per month for the entire country. Although the number of homicides has more than tripled over the past decade, the number of accused murderers tried has steadily dropped. 40

To combat guerrilla insurgencies, the government itself has adopted strongly authoritarian measures that often result in human rights violations, sending the message that violence is an acceptable way to solve problems. 41

"If society is unprotected and the State fails to act, the solution appears to be to take matters into your own hands and employ the only thorough and efficient method that will finish off these problematic individuals," Rojas told Human Rights Watch/Americas in explaining the motivation behind "social cleansing." "For several years, there was no response to these murders from the state, which characterized them as the result of vendettas between delinquents and denied the participation of police or the existence of death squads." 42

By 1980, cases became so numerous in Medellín that a city council member was able to present evidence linking the approximately 300 such killings that year to the National Police, specifically the F-2, the DAS, and the Citizen Security Department (Departamento de Seguridad Ciudadana), the last since disbanded. 43 Among the groups identified as "social cleansing" squads in Cali were "Los Cobras." An F-2 investigation later identified its leaders as two private security guards who charged each household in their neighborhood a weekly quota to fund the kidnappings and executions of local juvenile delinquents. 44 Other groups have called themselves "Death to gamines," "Love for Medellín," "Sweet Dreams," "Death to Dangerous Homosexuals," "Black Hand," and "Toxicol-90" (after a commonly sold brand of vermin and insect poison).

Before launching a campaign, these groups typically carried out a public relations effort aimed at stripping their intended victims of their humanity. No longer individuals, their targets become "human waste" or simply "filth." In repeated public statements, the organizers of "social cleansing" squads have positioned themselves as the guardians of "decent" society, while their targets are useless, unwanted, and beyond redemption. The existence of desechables is more than an embarrassment or an annoyance. To the "social cleansers," it is a stain on their very concept of community, and must be eradicated with energy. 45

In 1986, the anonymous founders of Toxicol-90 announced their intentions to the press in the following manner:

Faced with the reigning wave of insecurity unleashed recently in the city of Barrancabermeja, the undersigned have embraced with our hearts the radical position of eliminating and eradicating by any means all types of elements unworthy of living in society, for instance muggers, purse snatchers, marijuana smokers, bazuco smokers, etc... it's because of them that our anonymous "company" (sociedad anónima) has created the product Toxicol-90, whose objective is in accordance with its reason for being, that is to carry out humane acts of hygiene [on people]... We will also apply popular justice to lawyers who specialize in defending this human waste. 46

CINEP began recording the victims of "social cleansing" killings by age in 1988, when nine boys and one girl were killed. 47 By the end of the decade, then-Minister of Government (and later President) César Gaviria was able to identify forty "social cleansing" groups among the 140 paramilitary groups active throughout Colombia. 48 By 1990, the number of children who fell victim to "social cleansing had doubled, to eighteen. 49

Rojas emphasizes, however, that "social cleansing" groups tend to be fluid and impermanent, operating under various names when a rise in crime and insecurity seems to demand a violent response. Although over time, "social cleansing" killings have tended to increase, their numbers vary widely from month to month, marking the beginning and end of definite "campaigns," often tied to changes in public perception of crime. Rojas has noted a definite correlation between media reports on a perceived increase in crime or judicial inefficiency and "social cleansing" campaigns. 50

It was during such a campaign that one team of "social cleansers" attacked Rafael David Rivera Galvis, a thirteen-year-old recycler living in the capital. In 1991, he told reporters, city sanitation workers, who wear distinctive yellow uniforms, doused him with gasoline as he slept across the street from the central police station in Bogotá. "El Quemadito" (The Little Burned One), as he is known, managed to put out the flames, although he was left blind in one eye and severely scarred. 51

For Rojas, the clear beginning and end of campaigns suggests that rather than a means to eliminate desechables, "social cleansing" is used to exert periodic control over a unruly society that seems to threaten the boundaries set by "gente decente," good people. If the desechables are perceived as under control, campaigns cease. The all-time high in recorded "social cleansing" killings was reached in 1992, at 436. 52 In forty-one of these deaths, a record 9 percent, children were the victims. 53 By 1993, CINEP had recorded "social cleansing" killings in twenty-six of Colombia's thirty-two departments, including Bogotá. 54

In Bogotá, most "social cleansing" killings take place in the boroughs of Santa Fe and Los Mártires, on some of the roughest streets in Colombia. 55 In areas known as "El Bronx," "Cinco Huecos," "La Ratonera," and Calle del Cartucho, 56 a rubble-strewn warren of bars, brothels, lottery stands, and ollas (literally pots), where drugs are sold, street children wander among the adult prostitutes, pimps, and drug addicts, sometimes begging from passersby, sometimes mugging them with the gleaming knife that shoots out from beneath a sleeve. 57

Professionally type-set posters printed in red and black ink announced a new "social cleansing" campaign in Los Mártires in August 1993 (the poster appears in our cover photo).


The industrialists, businessmen, civic groups,
and community at large in the Los Mártires area


to the funerals for the delinquents who work in
this part of the capital, which will begin as of
today and continue until they are exterminated. 58

Several weeks before, the Bogotá Personería 59 told us they had received a visit of about ten local merchants, state employees, and lawyers who threatened to "take justice into their own hands" if nothing was done about crime. 60 Local child activists suspected that the posters were paid for by local business people allied with police who were fed up with street crime. 61 After the posters appeared, residents reported seeing unknown men in "troopers" 62 without license plates and with smoked-glass windows cruising the streets, apparently unnoticed by police. Although the posters were quickly removed, the bits of paper and glue left behind were sinister reminders of the threat.

Despite an increased police presence in the area, Bogotá's gamines didn't have to wait long for the threat to be carried out. 63 One week later, American journalist Marc Cooper learned that Caleño, a gamín he had interviewed the day before, had been shot only fifty yards from RENACER, a nongovernmental organization that works with child prostitutes. Witnesses told Cooper that armed men in a car had pulled up beside Caleño, rolled down a darkened window, and shot the boy twice in the head. 64

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, three teen-age boys believed to be prostitutes were reportedly forced into cars by heavily-armed men in different parts of the city in October. 65 One of them was Andrés,* fifteen, who worked a downtown mall. According to his friends, Andrés was forced from the mall by armed men wearing police uniforms. Just before his death, Andrés had been interviewed by reporters from Colombia's leading newspaper, who learned from his friends that his body had been found on the highway to Choachí, in a well-known botadero de cadáveres, body-dumping spot. 66

Children told Human Rights Watch/Americas that police often threaten them with the paseo, a euphemism for a drive to Choachí in a car without license plates and certain death on one of the deserted curves. 67 Andrés' friends told reporters that three other companions, known by the nicknames of "Gasolino," "Tambor," and "Viruta," had been killed and left in botaderos in similar circumstances. 68

Jenny, Adolfo, Pacho, Hernán, and Carlota* form a gallada, or gang, that considers Los Mártires its turf. Among their members are children who have been beaten, shot at, and raped. Last year, Jenny and Carlota* say they were almost run over by a white car they think was driven by police. On another occasion, masked men approached them and began threatening them with violence.

"They called me a fag, a whore, because we spend so much time in the street," Jenny says. 69

Over five days in December, the Bogotá Personería recorded eighteen "social cleansing" murders of indigents who worked in Calle del Cartucho. According to witnesses, on the night of December 18, 1993, armed men travelling in a blue pick-up truck killed twelve street people in less than one hour. 70

Two months later, a "trooper" stopped at Bogotá's Plazoleta de la Macarena long enough for passengers to fire on five boys sleeping under a pile of rags next to the church. Three were killed; the youngest, known as "Asprilla" after a Colombian soccer star, was ten years old. All were enrolled in a program aimed at rescuing children from the street. 71 That same night, Javier Castaño, a seventeen-year-old gamín, was killed nearby with a shot through the mouth. 72

Fidel* was once a frequent visitor to Los Mártires, where he bought bazuco. An addict and thief, he has been confined to the Casa de El Redentor, a Bogotá juvenile detention facility, three times. Now seventeen, he says broadcasts of the 700 Club dubbed into Spanish have shown him the way out of crime. 73

He says his arrival at El Redentor saved his life. Two days after his arrival, his mother discovered that his name was on list made by the "social cleansing" squad operating in Villeta, the town near Bogotá where he lived. That night, the squad hunted down several of his former buddies. He estimated that twenty-five children have been killed by the squad in Villeta this year alone. Fidel described to Human Rights Watch/Americas how drug dealers sometimes protect their best clients from "social cleansing" squads:

Several times when I went to the olla to buy bazuco, they pulled me inside quickly while forcing the desechables to stay outside. The "trooper" with its smoked windows would come by and I would hear the machine guns go "traki-traki-traki." Everyone screams. Once it was a red "trooper" and another time a black Toyota Land Cruiser, always without license plates or with them covered. There would be about six or eight men inside. This happened to me three times. The desechables are the ones who really carry the load. No one believes their lives are worth anything. Sometimes the police would even tell me, `Hey, there's going to be a limpieza (cleansing) on such and such day, so don't come around.' 74

Fidel's relationship with other police agents was less friendly. On repeated occasions, he says, he was beaten and tortured while in detention in Villeta. Police forced him to disrobe, then doused him in water and took him to an open patio, raked by the frigid sabana 75 wind. If he refused to talk, they would beat him and force a plastic bag over his head until he neared suffocation. He never made a formal report about the torture, however.

"You don't complain or report them, because it will be worse the next time," he explains. 76


To the southeast of Bogotá's commercial center is Ciudad Bolívar, where roughly one quarter of the capital's population lives. Founded in 1956 by families fleeing "La Violencia" and rural poverty, it is now home to the poor. 77 At its upper reaches, shacks perch on the barren moor that overlooks the Bogotá plain. After a rain, the unpaved streets become mud-filled gullies occasionally crusted with ice. 78

Lower down, families have managed to put up concrete walls, bring in electricity, and glass in the windows. At night, bedrooms crowd with sleeping bodies, as adult children move in with their families and visiting relatives decide to stay. Although most work, few have salaried jobs. Often, extended families survive on one salary augmented with the occasional windfall.

Here, children are both prime targets and agents of violence. For youth and community activists, central to why children occupy these dual roles in Ciudad Bolívar are poverty, a severe shortage in schools, and unemployment, leaving kids with nothing to do but hang out on the street. 79 Here, the effects of the economic ills that plague Colombia lie exposed. Family violence, child abuse, and alcohol and drug addiction are commonplace and on the rise. 80

Many Bogotanos assume Ciudad Bolívar is nothing more than a breeding ground for thieves. Ironically, as is true in the United States, the most frequent victims of crime in Colombian cities are not the rich but people like the ones living in Ciudad Bolívar, on the front lines of these street clashes.

Nevertheless, residents told us that police rarely patrol. Only when there is a murder, we were told, will a squad car appear. Although we were unable to confirm the many reports of police corruption we received, it is clear that residents deeply mistrust the police, so report few crimes. Here, la ley del sapo reigns. 81

"We cannot report an olla to the police, because the next day the owners of the olla will attack us," one community leader, who preferred anonymity, explained to Human Rights Watch/Americas. "We just stop seeing or hearing what goes on in the neighborhood. Here, the police are the problem, not the solution." 82

Between 1989 and 1993, over 500 children were murdered here according to local leaders and government officials. Most were teen-age males. The majority of murders remain unsolved. 83

A significant number were probably the result of common crime or turf wars between youth gangs. 84 In January 1994, for instance, authorities say they arrested on murder charges twenty-three members of a Ciudad Bolívar gang known as "El Parche" (literally, The Turf), including thirteen children, among them one of the gang leaders. 85

While Ciudad Bolívar residents admit that violence against youth comes from several directions, they charge that many youths have been murdered with the participation or approval of police. Some police agents sell weapons on the illegal market to men who then kill children with police complicity. Others, residents charge, participate directly in "social cleansing" campaigns.

Sixteen percent of the "social cleansing" murders registered in the city by CINEP between 1988 and 1993 took place in Ciudad Bolívar. 86 While in Santa Fe and Los Mártires, victims tend to be indigents, including gamines, here they are teenage boys and young men. Ciudad Bolívar youth say they are targets for harassment and attacks because they have a certain appearance, associated with guerrillas, drug users, or thieves, whether they actually are or not. 87

Julio* told us that youths are frequent targets of police harassment, typified by this incident:

Some friends and I had left a boring party... It was about two a.m. when four men dressed in civilian clothes came up and said, `Stop!' and `Against the wall!' like the police always do. They said they were DAS and asked for identification papers. One of the boys asked them for ID and then one of the men just pulled out a gun and shot him in the neck. We went to the local police station and asked the person on duty to take our injured friend to the hospital. The agent refused and said, `This is your problem.' So we got a taxi and took him to the hospital. 88

When an International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) mission visited Ciudad Bolívar in 1991, they were given this chilling testimony:

The Nissan is a kind of car, carrying several armed individuals. Sometimes they have Mini-Ingrams 89, or perhaps revolvers. Even the police... are scared of them. Because when they come, they are going a hundred miles an hour, and they spray with gunfire whoever's around. I also knew eight boys, innocent, they were picked up from a street corner at six in the afternoon, and appeared dead somewhere else. No one knows who did it. The only thing, two cars came, grabbed them, and good-bye, nothing more. 90

ICVA received reports of sixty-nine "social cleansing" murders in Ciudad Bolívar in the first two months of 1991, more than one a day. Local human rights organizations believe there may have been as many as 300 such killings in 1990. Although the the number of children killed was not specified, they received testimony that children were frequent targets. 91

One of the most well-known massacres in Ciudad Bolívar took place in the neighborhood known as Juan Pablo II in 1992. Twelve youths were gunned down on July 26 in circumstances that suggest the work of a "social cleansing" squad. Four men stand accused of the murder, and the trial is proceeding. 92

Another controversial murder was that of sixteen-year-old Roison Mora, shot by soldiers on May 22, 1993. According to witnesses, Roison, his brother, and a friend were throwing rocks onto cars passing beneath a bridge when one rock hit a military bus. The bus stopped, and two armed soldiers got off and began chasing them. After firing shots at the boys, they reboarded and the bus disappeared. Roison died later at a hospital, shot in the head. 93

After the shooting, his family received telephone death threats. Although a protest by Ciudad Bolívar youth later resulted in promises from the government, mayor's office, and police to investigate Roison's murder and the Juan Pablo II massacre, no results have been made public and families fear that the murders will remain unpunished. 94

In part to protect neighborhoods from crime, police harassment, and gang violence, some youth have organized militias. Several, including the "milicias bolivarianas," have ties to guerrilla groups, in this case the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Others, however, formed independently, at the initiative of young people tired of rampant crime, police harassment, and gang threats.

A statement from one Ciudad Bolívar militia described its members' motivation:

We are a handful of men and women who, by taking up arms, found an answer to the oblivion into which the state plunged us, to the daily hunger, and to the lack of public services to reaffirm our condition as decent human beings. On other occasions, we resorted to arms in self-defense against the criminal behavior of police authorities who are killing the future of Ciudad Bolívar: its youth. 95

While the number of militias in Bogotá has never been as high as that in Medellín, where the phenomenon started, the police claimed that by 1993 militias operated in fifteen Bogotá boroughs, including Ciudad Bolívar. 96

Whether guerrilla-linked or independent, however, militias operate in a black-and-white world. Youth in areas where militias are active are reportedly given a choice: join, leave, or be considered an enemy. Suspected drug dealers, prostitutes, or thieves are given warnings which, if unheeded, can end with their murders, a kind of deadly moral order. Residents treat militias with much the same caution as gangs: speak against them and risk retribution. 97

The government has accused some of the guerrilla-linked militias of coordinating with guerrilla offensives by attacking public buses and urban police outposts, called Centers of Immediate Attention (CAI). 98 Some Bogotá militias have proposed talks to the government and, like their counterparts in Medellín, say they are willing to lay down their weapons in return for government investment in roads, education, and health care. 99

To protest government neglect and the failure to investigate the murders of youth or punish murderers, Ciudad Bolívar residents have frequently resorted to civic strikes. There have been three strikes since July 1992, when young people protested after the Juan Pablo II massacre. 100 Among the demands put forward during a strike a year later were serious investigations into the Juan Pablo II massacre and the murder of Roison Mora, and an update on cases involving the murders of forty-three children over a five-year period. 101

Although local leaders agree that the police sent to supervise the July 1993 strike committed no abuses, Héctor William López Agudelo, a youth activist, was repeatedly threatened by one police agent, who called him a "fag... rat, thief, and bazuco smoker," and promised to "see him later that night," a reference to a "social cleansing" attack. López, who reported the police agent to the personero, was a member of the team that negotiated an end to the strike. 102

As part of the negotiated settlement, authorities agreed to convoke a forum on July 14 to talk about reform. Present were the police, judicial authorities, officials representing the executive and the Public Ministry, and community activists. Far from informing residents about the progress of investigations, however, the fiscal (district attorney) present simply read the original list of cases. When the assembled residents of Ciudad Bolívar protested, he walked out. 103 No further progress has been reported.

A subsequent strike on October 11 was put down when the security forces launched tear gas into a group of protestors, dispersed crowds with water and paint cannons, and shot live ammunition. 104 Tanks attached to the XIII Brigade were stationed at crossroads around the city. 105 Two months later, Marco Tulio Farigua, a strike leader and president of a neighborhood group, was murdered as he returned home on a local bus. Before the strike, Bogotá Mayor Jaime Castro had accused strikers of collaborating with guerrillas, a statement human rights groups believe may have led to Farigua's murder. 106


Collecting information on killings of children in Bogotá in order to measure impunity presents numerous obstacles. Children are often unable to identify their aggressors or are reluctant to report abuses for fear of reprisals. Attacks often occur at night, carried out by hooded men who aim their guns from behind smoked-glass windows in cars that have their license plates covered or removed.

On repeated occasions, children have managed to identify their aggressors only to find that the officers are not dismissed from the police force and return to threaten them. In addition, mistreatment at the hands of the police is common. Few children trust government authorities, so do not report abuses. A survey of 104 street people twenty-five years of age and under carried out by the Bogotá Personería in 1993 found that over half reported being mistreated. Of those fifty-three individuals, 76 percent said it was at the hands of police. 107

"They accept as natural and inevitable that they will be killed," journalist Timothy Ross, who has befriended hundreds of street children, told Human Rights Watch/Americas. 108

Despite a fierce "social cleansing" campaign as 1994 began, the Bogotá Personería had not received a single formal report of such a killing when we visited in June 1994. 109 By that time, CINEP had recorded ten "social cleansing" killings in the first three months of 1994, including the murders of the three boys in the Plazoleta de la Macarena.

Victims of "social cleansing" murders frequently are discovered without identifying documents, and are registered at the morgue as "NN" (no name). No one appears to claim their bodies or protest their deaths. Often, the authorities charged with collecting evidence fail to investigate properly. For instance, after the rash of "social cleansing" killings in December 1993, the Bogotá Personería discovered that the coroner had not gathered forensic evidence from bodies in the morgue, but instead had washed, shaved, and cut their hair, making identification nearly impossible. 110 For these reasons, human rights groups say, many murders of gamines go unrecorded. 111

Despite the fact that they travel in expensive cars without license plates, often at high speed and with their weapons prominently displayed, and in densely populated cities, not a single member of a "social cleansing" squad has ever been arrested in the act, even when killings occur near CAI stations. The only "social cleansing" group known to have been dismantled was Cali's Los Cobras, in 1982. 112

"The numbers of murders, especially those of street people, must not be allowed to continue to increase with absolutely no one caring anything," one Bogotá official told the press in early 1994 after announcing that not a single one of the eighty-one murders of street people that occurred in Bogotá in 1993 had been solved. "This puts into serious question the seriousness of the Colombian government in meeting its clear obligations laid out in international pacts and treaties on human rights." 113

Nevertheless, human rights groups and some government officials in Colombia have documented clear and continuing links between state agents and "social cleansing" squads. A CINEP survey of witnesses to "social cleansing" killings in Bogotá made between 1988 and 1993 found that 19 percent were able to name members of the police as responsible. Nine percent of the killings were blamed on "Death to gamines," a squad with links to police. Most of the perpetrators — 64 percent — were not identified. 114

Bogotá personero Antonio Bustos Esguerra went so far as to call on the metropolitan police chief to require officers to turn in their privately-owned weapons, since these have repeatedly been linked to "social cleansing" killings. "(It's necessary) not only to disarm criminals but also, for example, to disarm the police," he told the press. "Not of their weapons while on duty but of the weapons some members carry without the proper license or that they sell." 115

One journalist attempted to follow up on official investigations of police working at the city's V Station, which covers central Bogotá. Ignacio Gómez of El Espectador discovered that, far from being suspended from their duties, the five officers and eleven policemen linked to "Death to gamines," implicated in a rash of killings of indigents in May and June of 1989, had all been transferred. 116 Some of the killings were especially brutal. The cadaver of one child was discovered with its hands completely destroyed, a grisly warning to child thieves. 117

When the Procurador Delegate for the Police Forces began to circulate his investigation to the stations where implicated officers were working, some separated by hundreds of miles, they were told that the men named had been transferred yet again, causing months of delay. Three times, the Procuraduría was given erroneous information by the police about the whereabouts of a major accused of leading the "social cleansing" campaign. 118

One of the men was Second Lieutenant Cristian Kreklow Rojas, whom the Procuraduría accused of badly beating several indigents and allowing officers under his command to do the same. Among those implicated were Civil Defense members, whose official duties are to help the population during natural disasters. 119 However, in Bogotá, street children told Human Rights Watch/Americas that a distinctive orange jeep belonging to Civil Defense has carried armed men who have killed street people. 120

John Jairo, one of the indigents beaten, was later allegedly murdered by another policeman, Rafael Antonio Barreto Navarro, in an incident Second Lieutenant Kreklow failed to report. 121 John Jairo's body was dumped in a spot known as La Cuneta on the road to Choachí.

The Procuraduría accused police agents José Hernán Urrego Benavides and Carlos Cano Ramírez, alias "Coloreto," of participating in murders:

... patrolling along Carrera 19 at Calle 13 in this city, in an unjustified manner and exceeding their official duties, they fired their weapons thus killing a street person by the name of Tamayo, who was handicapped...122

One joint investigation by the police and Public Ministry of thirty-eight police officers charged with the "social cleansing" killings of over sixty indigents and recyclers over a twenty-day period in Pereira concluded in July 1991 with the dismissal of thirteen agents and two officials and the punishment of thirty-four other police agents. Apparently, however, no legal action was subsequently taken against dismissed officers. 123

Like members of the security forces implicated in human rights violations against adult civilians, police and military officers accused of violating the rights of children are not tried in civilian courts. A provision in the 1991 Constitution grants military court jurisdiction in cases involving military personnel, and extends this jurisdiction to police. Moreover, the constitution sanctifies the concept of "due obedience" to higher orders, allowing subordinates to claim innocence on the grounds that they were acting on orders of a superior officer. The few cases against members of the security forces pursued by the Fiscal General (Attorney General) have languished. 124

However, perhaps the most disturbing thing about the "social cleansing" of children is its level of acceptance in society. Some voices of protest are raised over assassinations of political leaders, attacks on indigenous peoples, and the torture of peasants. But a surprising number of Colombians — among them the targets of "social cleansing" campaigns, including street children — accept "social cleansing" as a necessary or unavoidable evil, like bad weather. Few indeed are those who protest these killings or see in them a reprehensible violation of human rights.

During our mission, we noted that many Colombians view street children as lost causes, beyond saving. It has become habit for Bogotanos to go out of their way to avoid crossing paths with them. A program sponsored by the mayor's office and local merchants to sell bonos (vouchers) to people who prefer not to give street children the money they beg for, met with an initial swell of popularity. The vouchers, selling for about thirteen cents apiece, raised funds for municipal self-help programs, whose addresses appeared on them. But by the time we arrived in the city, less than a year after the program started, vouchers were hard to find for sale. 125

While the "social cleansing" of children is clearly not a policy of the Colombian government, the tolerance of such killings, both by the government and many communities, is an unmistakable reality. For example, in one unusual 1992 decision, Colombia's Consejo de Estado (State Council) reviewed a court decision condemning two police agents for the murder of a petty thief named Javier de Jesús Londoño Arango while in custody in Liborna, Antioquia, in 1986. 126 In a striking condemnation of "social cleansing," the State Council called those state authorities who believe they have the right to kill desechables "the monstrous owners of life, honor and belongings... `Cleaning' a country... begins with those called, by these new righteous ones, human waste (homosexuals, vagrants, thieves, drug addicts, prostitutes) but later includes peasant leaders, community activists, unionists, or those who profess an ideology that goes against the system and make [the righteo! us o nes] uncomfortable."

Nevertheless, in its refusal to pay the reparation of 500 grams of gold ordered by the State Council, the Defense Ministry argued that there was no cause, since "[the] individual... was not useful or productive to society or his family, but instead was a vagrant who no one in the municipality wanted." 127

Other measures that Bogotá authorities have taken to stop murders include a general disarmament, first tested in the city of Cali. On December 29, 1993, police mounted roadblocks to search car passengers for unlicensed firearms. During the New Year celebration, thirty-four people were murdered with firearms, a decrease of 40 percent compared to the previous year. 128

While this measure has clearly contributed to a decrease in murders that result from common crime, yet to be addressed are the murders committed by police using police guns, their own weapons, or guns seized in raids.

In an unprecedented gathering, street people marched on September 28, 1993, to protest the murder of Miguel Angel Martínez, known as "The Ñero Poet." 129 Martínez, fifty-eight, had gained fame for his spontaneous recitations of poetry. On September 16, 1993, witnesses told investigators from the Attorney General's office, Martínez and several other indigents were beaten by police agent Israel Zorro Martínez (no relation) while police agent William Enrique Aldana Pacanchique watched. Zorro Martínez burned their blankets and scattered their food. The "Ñero Poet" had suffered a similar beating by police a week earlier, and his injuries made it impossible for him to escape. He died seven days later. 130

Later, Martínez's companions identified the two policemen from photographs. The case against the two men ran into difficulties, however, after the witnesses say they saw one of the implicated agents on active duty, and refused to testify further out of fear. 131

The murder prompted the first-ever ñero protest in Bogotá, composed of several hundred indigents, recyclers, and gamines who marched through the city center. 132 The protest prompted media attention, including an "open mike" program by one radio station to collect opinions about ñeros. However, some listeners were shocked to hear that opinions ran largely in favor of the killing of ñeros. 133 Two days after the march, a non-profit health clinic for gamines told a journalist that children continued to arrive at their door wounded from police beatings. 134


11 "El bus del terror," Semana, June 7, 1994, pp. 32-36.

12 1993 figures are not yet available. "Delincuencia común," Cambio 16, No. 24, November 22-29, 1993, pp. 30-42.

13 Ibid. However, Medellín continues to be Colombia's murder capital. See Luis Jaime Acosta, Reuter, "Medellín, la más violenta," El Mundo, March 23, 1993.

14 "7 mil muertes violentas en Bogotá durante 1993," El Espectador, February 17, 1994.

15 For more detailed report on police human rights violations, see Procuraduría General de la Nación, Informe sobre derechos humanos (Santafé de Bogotá: Procuraduría, 1994); and Washington Office on Latin America, The Colombian National Police, Human Rights and U.S. Drug Policy (Washington, D.C.: WOLA, 1993).

16 "Policía, la que más viola derechos humanos," El Espectador, June 8, 1994.

17 Gonzalo Guillen, "A penas Suramericana," La Prensa, October 3, 1993.

18 Gamines is the term used for street children.

19 The difficulty inherent in gathering reliable statistics on "social cleansing" killings has meant pronounced variations in the numbers released by the authorities and even human rights groups. In this report, we have chosen to cite only CINEP statistics since we draw heavily from their 1994 report on "social cleansing," cited later. Letter from Carlos Rojas, CINEP researcher, to HRW/Americas, July 1, 1994.

20 The killing of children by police violates the UNCRC, the ICCPR, and the ACHR (see footnote 6 in the Summary section).

21 A recent example is the government's open tolerance of paramilitary chieftain Fidel Castaño, implicated in the killings of peasants, trade unionists, and leftists during the 1980s. Castaño, who reportedly divides his time between ranches in northern Colombia and a Parisian home, also took responsibility for the creation of People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar (PEPES), the group credited with helping corner the cartel kingpin by murdering his allies and bombing his properties. Although Castaño has been declared guilty in absentia for publicly admitting having formed paramilitary groups in the state of Córdoba, he remains at large, accessible, apparently, only to intrepid journalists and not the Colombian security forces. "`Yo fui el creador de los Pepes'," Semana, May 31, 1994, pp. 38-45.

22 The United Nations Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary, and Summary Executions (1989) requires a "thorough, prompt and impartial investigation of all suspected cases of extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions," as well as government action to bring to justice persons identified by the investigation as having taken part in such executions.

23 About 300,000 Colombians live from the money they make by collecting cardboard, paper, and other recyclable materials, much of which is then used to pack crates destined for the export market. HRW/Americas interview, Bogotá, June 14, 1994; and Leslie Wirpsa, "Neoliberal free trade raw deal for Colombian cooperative of impoverished trash collectors," National Catholic Reporter, December 17, 1993.

24 "El caso Brasil," El Universal, July 30, 1993; and HRW/Americas interview, Carlos Rojas, Bogotá, June 2, 1994.

25 A National Planning survey of the reasons why kids end up on the streets found that most cited abuse within the family. "Maltrato infantil: énfasis en la prevención," El País (Cali), September 24, 1993; and "Colombia no nos quiere" and "Cuando este niño crezca," El Tiempo, January 9, 1994.

26 Industrial glue is a cheap and euphoric high, comparable in its effect to opiates. Used by shoemakers, it contains toluene, which dissolves brain cells, kidneys, and other organs. Reacting to the damage, the body releases soothing endorphins, numbing sensations of cold and hunger. As the glue's power dissipates, however, the user feels desperation and a craving for relief from more glue. Heavy users can end up paralyzed. Bonnie Hayskar, "Sticking with Addiction in Latin America," Multinational Monitor, April 1994, pp. 26-29.

27 An asterisk (*) denotes a name changed to protect the identity of the speaker at her or his request.

28 HRW/Americas interview, Bogotá, June 3, 1994.

29 Ibid.

30 HRW/Americas interview, Bogotá, June 7, 1994.

31 Frankie also told his story to Miami Herald reporter Mary Speck and Los Angeles Times reporter Tracy Wilkinson. His case is mentioned in Mary Speck, "Always dangerous, life on Bogotá streets is now often deadly," Miami Herald, April 16; and Tracy Wilkinson, "A Culture of Violence," Los Angeles Times, March 8, 1994.

32 The UNCRC, the ICCPR, and the ACHR forbid torture or cruel, inhumane treatment or punishment (see footnote 6 in the Summary section). The United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states in Article 5 that "No law enforcement official may inflict, instigate or tolerate any act of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment."

33 HRW/Americas interview, Bogotá, June 7, 1994.

34 In this report, we identify the department (state) where towns are located by including the state in parentheses.

35 Carlos Rojas, La violencia llamada limpieza social (Santafé de Bogotá: CINEP, July 1993), pp. 15-16.

36 Arturo Alape, "A quién le importa la muerte ajena?" El Espectador, August 25, 1991.

37 Rojas, La violencia llamada..., p. 18.

38 Some of these killings were probably related to a dispute between Valle drug gangs. Alape, "A quién le importa...", El Espectador.

39 While crime has increased overall in Colombia, certain kinds of crimes actually decreased in the latter half of the 1980s, including robbery. The crime that showed the sharpest jump was homicide, most unrelated to political conflict - from 9,122 in 1980 to over 24,000 in 1993. Rojas, La violencia llamada..., pp. 34-43, 45-59.

40 Although Colombian human rights groups have attempted to further break down these figures by type of crime, such detail has proved nearly impossible to produce since some trials take as long as ten years to conclude. "Justicia: y los resultados?," El Tiempo, August 28, 1994.

41 For more on these measures, see Human Rights Watch, State of War: Political Violence and Counterinsurgency in Colombia (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993).

42 HRW/Americas interview, Carlos Rojas, Bogotá, June 2, 1994.

43 Rojas, La violencia llamada..., pp. 17-18.

44 Ibid., p. 20.

45 Because the victims of "social cleansing" killings are usually chosen not because of who they are, but rather what group they belong to, human rights groups generally record such killings by group. However, children may be mixed into categories other than "street child," for instance "drug addict" or "prostitute". Rojas, La violencia llamada..., pp. 46-48; and letter from Carlos Rojas to HRW/Americas, September 15, 1994.

46 Rojas, La violencia llamada..., p. 46.

47 Letter from Carlos Rojas to HRW/Americas, July 1, 1994.

48 Rojas, La violencia llamada..., p. 74.

49 Letter from Carlos Rojas to HRW/Americas, July 1, 1994.

50 HRW/Americas interview with Carlos Rojas, Bogotá, June 2, 1994.

51 The burning of gamines is not unusual. We received reports of a similar case during our stay in Medellín. John Mario Osorio Avedaño, twelve, was burned as he slept by men he identified as the police. Later, John Mario was partially blinded in a shooting incident in which five of his companions were killed. "`Se burlaban de mi vestido de fuego'," La Opinión, January 20, 1993; and HRW/Americas interview, Medellín, June 9, 1994.

52 This increase was partly due to a macabre incident at the Medical School of the Free University of Barranquilla, where private security guards lured scores of recyclers into the university, only to murder them and sell their cadavers for use in the classroom. Rojas, La violencia llamada...," p. 22; and Víctor de Currea Lugo, "Sobreviviendo entre las basuras," Utopias, No. 6, July 1993, pp. 37-38.

53 Letter from Carlos Rojas to HRW/Americas, July 1, 1994.

54 The leader was Valle, with 585 killings, followed by Antioquia, with 549. Rojas, La violencia llamada..., p. 22.

55 Ibid., p. 28.

56 The Bronx takes its name from the New York borough portrayed in Hollywood films as especially violent. The other neighborhood names translate as Five Holes, The Rat Nest, and Bullet Shell Street.

57 HRW/Americas interviews, Los Mártires, June 3, 1994.

58 Leslie Wirpsa, "Deadly `social cleansing' hits Latino poor," National Catholic Reporter, December 17, 1993, pp. 11-14.

59 The Personería is the municipal office charged with defending the rights of citizens. Each personería is run by a personero, who files formal complaints made by citizens.

60 HRW/Americas interview, Personería, Bogotá, June 7, 1994.

61 Marc Cooper, "REALITY CHECK: Politics," Spin, November, 1993.

62 "Troopers" are vehicles resembling Isuzu's popular all-terrain vehicle, often used in assassination attempts and "social cleansing" killings; also known as "jeeps" and "Nissanes."

63 "Nadie tiembla en Los Mártires," El Tiempo, August 14, 1993.

64 Marc Cooper, "Reality Check...", Spin.

65 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Colombia (Washington, D.C.: Organization of American States, 1993), p. 164.

66 "Se venden y mueren," El Tiempo, October 10, 1993.

67 HRW/Americas interviews, Bogotá, June 3, 1994.

68 Literally Gasoline, Drum, and Sawdust, the latter commonly used to refer to people with curly hair.

69 HRW/Americas interviews, Bogotá, June 3, 1994.

70 HRW/Americas interview, Personería, Bogotá, June 7, 1994; and their "Informe," December 30, 1993.

71 Personería de Bogotá, "Informe por homicidio de tres indigentes," June 1, 1994.

72 Comisión Intercongregacional de Justicia y Paz, Boletín Informativo, Vol. 7, No. 1, January-March, 1994, p. 64.

73 HRW/Americas interview, El Redentor, Bogotá, June 5, 1994.

74 Ibid.

75 Literally plain, the flat mountain valley where Bogotá lies.

76 Ibid.

77 "La Violencia" is the term used to described the undeclared civil war that raged in Colombia between 1948-1966, costing over 200,000 lives and forcing over two million to flee their homes. Armando Neira, "Ciudad Bolívar: Nuestra `Franja de Gaza,'" Cambio 16, October 18, 1993, pp. 26-29.

78 This section is based on a visit to Ciudad Bolívar and HRW/Americas interviews with Ciudad Bolívar officials and residents, Bogotá, June 4, 1994.

79 In 1993, the largest single block of acciones de tutela submitted to Colombian courts, 18 percent, had to do with the violation of the right to an education because of bureaucratic chaos and a lack of facilities and teachers according to the Defensoría. This measure allows citizens to file for an immediate judicial injunction against actions or omissions of any public authority that they claim limit their constitutional rights. Defensoría del Pueblo, Primer Informe Anual del Defensor del Pueblo al Congreso de Colombia: 1994 (Santafé de Bogotá: Defensoría del Pueblo, 1994), p. 108.

Ciudad Bolívar needs a minimum of 40,000 additional places in high school (secundaria) to accommodate children. At the national level, more than 600,000 children cannot attend elementary school (primaria) for lack of space or access according to National Planning. MENCOLDES, "18 años ...", p. 13; and Defensa de los Niños Internacional (DNI), Aplicación de la Convención de los Derechos del Niño en Colombia, p. 2.

One school visited by Human Rights Watch was built entirely with funds raised by parents, and has desks, a black board, and a bathroom. As yet, however, there are no official teachers. A neighbor who is a retired teacher volunteered to hold classes for the sixty elementary school students who show up each morning. HRW/Americas interviews, Ciudad Bolívar, June 4, 1994.

80 The statistics on child abuse are particularly terrifying. Colombia's coroner's office recorded four deaths a day in 1993 as a result of child abuse. In the capital, reports of child abuse rose 80 percent in comparison to 1992 according to the Procuraduría Delegate for Minors and Families. As with other crime in Colombia, a low proportion of child abuse murders are reported and make it to trial. "Piden erigir en delito el maltrato a los niños," El Espectador, September 24, 1993.

81 This refrain — that police participate in drug-trafficking and other crimes — was repeated to Human Rights Watch repeatedly during our visit. It has also been the subject of many newspaper articles. See, for instance, "Bolívar se avergüenza," El Espectador, 1991; and "Atropellos policivos," La Prensa, October 3, 1993.

82 HRW/Americas interviews, Ciudad Bolívar official, Bogotá, June 4, 1994.

83 HRW/Americas interviews, Ciudad Bolívar officials and residents, Bogotá, June 4, 1994; and The Mennonite Development Foundation (MENCOLDES), "18 años de Apoyo al Trabajo Popular," August, 1993, p. 13.

84 Typical of the death toll between gangs was the July 1992 drive-by shooting at a birthday party that took twelve lives, most children. The Attorney General's office estimates that there are over eighty gangs in Bogotá. "Twelve die in Colombian Vendetta Between Teenage Gangs," Reuters, July 26, 1992; "Alternativa única, la muerte," El Tiempo, December 31, 1993; and "Entre el desarme y las pandillas," La Prensa, January 9, 1994.

85 "La Fiscalía detuvo a 23 pandilleros," El Tiempo, January 6, 1994; and "La Fiscalía identifica 107 pandillas juveniles," El Espectador, December 28, 1993.

86 Rojas, La violencia llamada..., p. 28.

87 HRW/Americas interviews in Ciudad Bolívar and with Ciudad Bolívar youth, June and 16, 1994; and Rojas, La violencia llamada..., p. 29-32.

88 HRW/Americas interview, Ciudad Bolívar youth, Bogotá, June 16, 1994.

89 This is a type of automatic weapon.

90 "Bolívar se avergüenza," El Espectador, 1991.

91 CINEP recorded only thirty-five "social cleansing" killings in the capital in 1990 and twenty-four in 1991, underscoring the difficulty in gathering reliable statistics. International Council of Voluntary Agencies, "Misión de ICVA a Colombia: 11-19 de abril de 1991" (Geneva: ICVA, 1991), p. 22.

92 Letter to Eduardo Díaz Uribe, Consejero para Asuntos Sociales y Participación Ciudadana, Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá, from José Haxel de la Pava Marulanda, Director Seccional de Fiscalías Santafé de Bogotá, October, 1993. The case is currently before the Juzgado 15 Penal del Circuito.

93 Amnesty International Urgent Action 226/93, July 12, 1993.

94 HRW/Americas interview, Leonor Solano, Bogotá, June 15, 1994.

95 "People's Militia Proposes Peace Negotiations," El Tiempo, March 8, in FBIS, March 15, 1994, p. 43.

96 Ibid.

97 HRW/Americas interview, Personería, Bogotá, June 7; and with local authorities of Ciudad Bolívar, June 4, 1994.

98 "Llegaron las milicias," La Prensa, October 3, 1993.

99 "People's Militia ...", FBIS, 43-44.

100 The protests took place in July 1992, July 1993, October 1993, and June 1994. "Ciudad Bolívar en medio...", El Tiempo; and "Hoy, paro en Ciudad Bolívar," El Tiempo, October 11, 1993.

101 "Ciudad Bolívar en medio de la guerra sucia," El Espectador, July 7; and "Desmovilizado el paro de Ciudad Bolívar," El Tiempo, October 12, 1993.

102 Declaration before Dr. Pedro Jaime Rojas Perico, personero, by Héctor William López Agudelo, July 6, 1993.

103 HRW/Americas interview, Ciudad Bolívar activists, Bogotá, June 4, 1994. The document read was the letter to Eduardo Díaz Uribe, Consejero para Asuntos Sociales y Participación Ciudadana, Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá, from José Haxel de la Pava Marulanda, Director Seccional de Fiscalías Santafé de Bogotá, October, 1993.

104 The use of live ammunition as a method of crowd control may violate the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979, which states in Article 3 that "law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty."

105 "Desmovilizado el paro de Ciudad Bolívar," El Tiempo, October 12, 1993.

106 Amnesty International UA 431/93, December 10, 1993.

107 Bogotá Personería, "Informe sobre población indigente," October 24, 1993.

108 HRW/Americas interview, Bogotá, June 2, 1994.

109 HRW/Americas interview, Personería, Bogotá, June 7, 1994.

110 Ibid.

111 HRW/Americas interview, Carlos Rojas, Bogotá, June 2, 1994.

112 Rojas, La violencia llamada..., p. 74.

113 "Piden acciones contra la `limpieza social'," El Tiempo, February 22, 1994.

114 Rojas, La violencia llamada..., p. 74.

115 "A penas Suramericana," La Prensa, October 3, 1993.

116 Ignacio Gómez, "El holocausto de los indigentes," El Espectador, September 1, 1991.

117 Rojas, "Limpiando la...", pp. 33-36.

118 Gómez, "El holocausto..." El Espectador.

119 Ibid.

120 HRW/Americas interviews, Bogotá, June 3, 1994.

121 Reporter Timothy Ross, who has befriended many of Bogotá's street children, was able to capture on film an incident between a street child and Agent Barreto, who was threatening him with a gun. Agent Barreto later resigned from the police force. The photograph was published in the National Catholic Reporter on December 17, 1993, p. 11.

122 Gómez, "El holocausto...", El Espectador.

123 Rojas, La violencia llamada..., p. 75.

124 For a detailed discussion of the impunity preserved by the military court jurisdiction, see Human Rights Watch/Americas, State of War, pp. 16-20.

125 Mary Speck, "Give street kids a hand, not a handout, group asks," Miami Herald, July 26, 1993.

126 Cases involving reparations for damages caused by the State are heard by the State Council, made up of selected members of the president's cabinet. It is the highest appeals court in civil law (contencioso administrativo). According to the Procuraduría, the Colombian government has paid millions of dollars, measured in grams of gold, over the past three years for human rights violations that have resulted in loss of life. Procuraduría, Informe..., August, 1994.

127 Amnesty International, Violencia política en Colombia: mito y realidad (Madrid: Amnesty International, 1994), pp. 24-25.

128 "Entre el desarme...", La Prensa.

129 Ñero comes from compañero, the Spanish for companion. While young people and guerrillas have adopted the term compa as a familiar form of address, street people have "recycled" the remainder, ñero, to refer to themselves.

130 Armando Neira, "El Reino de los Invisibles," Cambio 16, October 4, 1993.

131 "Puede quedar impune el crimen del poeta `ñero'," El Espectador, January 20, 1994; and "En libertad policía acusado de muerte del `poeta ñero'," El Espectador, February 18, 1994.

132 Wirpsa, "Deadly `social cleansing'...", National Catholic Reporter.

133 "A penas Suramericana," La Prensa.

134 "Más de 3.700 ñeros sobreviven en 45 parches," El Espectador, October 11, 1993.

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