APARTADO, Colombia – A plastic sheet stuck to a wall with the names of the 35 people slain by the FARC on the night of Jan. 23, 1994, is the only visible record of one of the worst massacres perpetrated by that guerrilla group; the bloodshed occurred in the La Chinita neighborhood of the Colombian city of Apartado.
“Today in La Chinita, a poor neighborhood with dirt roads that in the rainy season turn into a quagmire, everyone remembers what happened that night, either because they lived through it or, in the case of the youngsters, because they’ve so often heard the sad tales of their parents.
“I remember many things because my neighbor’s boy...they killed him because he was putting music on a record player. There was a party that night,” La Chinita housewife Alba Rosa Gomez told EFE.
In an act of apology this Friday at the scene of the murders, the chief FARC negotiator in the peace talks, Luciano Marin, alias “Ivan Marquez,” said that “what happened that night must never happen again,” and in speaking of the 34 slain men and women, he acknowledged “their innocence and love of life.”
The victims, gathered in a street that today is named 103B, were having a party to collect funds for the beginning of the school year – until guerrillas of the FARC’s 5th Front showed up and opened fire on the crowd.
“The guerrillas said nothing... right away it was pum pum pum,” the woman said, adding that the attackers closed off the streets to stop anyone from escaping.
“The people had nowhere to run,” she said.
The result could not have been more tragic: 35 dead and 17 wounded, whose only wrong was to attend community festivities at a place where the FARC happened to come looking for demobilized guerrillas of the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) that had laid down their arms almost three years before to form the political party Hope, Peace and Liberty (EPL).
“Inside this house they found the boy playing records, while outside the street was full of bodies,” Gomez said, indicating the ground outside the house where the party began.
The rich Uraba agroindustrial region, one of the chief producers of bananas in the country and where Apartado is located, was then, as it continues to be today, a territory disputed by different armed groups due to its strategic position on the Panamanian border facing the Caribbean Sea.