‘A Sea of Tears and Impunity’: Victims Still Searching for Justice 14 Years After Infamous Colombia Military Operation

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“Orion never again” reads a mural commemorating 14 years since Operation Orion laid siege to the neighborhood of Comuna 13 in Medellín, Colombia’s second largest city. The eyes of human rights activist Luz Elena Galeano Laverde look on as peace grows and origami doves flutter. Photograph by Angelika Albaladejo.

The second time armed men came to her house, Blanca Nidia Perez Botero wasn’t home.

She was at work. But her sons were home caring for her sick father when some men dressed as soldiers showed up at their door and threatened them. They said that they would take the boys away if they found a gun in the house.

There was no gun. The boys were safe. For now.

The first time the armed men had come was the night before. Perez thought she heard someone trying to open the door to their home. Her husband told her it was nothing. But when he heard it too, he told her to step back and peered out the window.

Outside, masked men in military uniforms were climbing out of a truck. The men came to their door and asked to search Perez’s home for leftist guerrillas who controlled her neighborhood.

Perez’s husband said there was nothing to hide and invited the soldiers inside. But even after they finally left, Perez knew it wasn’t over.

The security operation, dubbed “Orion” by the Colombian government, continued for an entire week. Military helicopters hovered overhead, firing into the Medellin community where Perez still lives. Tanks and police vehicles rolled through and security forces busted down doors and detained residents. Hundreds of civilians were injured, killed or disappeared.

Exactly 14 years later, victims are still seeking justice and searching for answers about what happened to loved ones who disappeared that week and in the years following.

Read the rest of this article and see more photographs on The WorldPost.

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