Disappearances in Colombia on a Scale Never Imagined

Lisa Haugaard
Executive director, Latin America Working Group
Posted: December 9, 2010 11:36 AM

“Disappearances.” When you mention the word in the Latin American context, most people think of Argentina, where 30,000 people were disappeared during the dirty war, or Chile, where 3,000 people were killed or disappeared. But the magnitude of the tragedy in Colombia may be even greater.

More than 51,000 people are registered by the Colombian government as disappeared or missing. Those who were forcibly disappeared — what we might think of as political disappearances — range in official statistics from over one quarter of that total to more than 32,000, as detailed in the report, Breaking the Silence: In Search of Colombia’s Disappeared, just released for Human Rights Day by the Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWGEF) and the U.S. Office on Colombia (USOC). But the real total is likely to be much higher, as new and old cases are entered into a consolidated government database. And many cases are never registered at all.

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