The bodies of more than 100 prison inmates, visitors, and other civilians were discovered in the pipes of the sewer system underneath La Modelo, the major prison in Bogotá, Columbia’s capital. The horrific discovery prompted an investigation by state prosecutors who are suspecting a possible epidemic of extrajudicial brutality in Columbia’s violent prisons.
The more than 100 dismembered bodies found in the prison sewer system of La Modelo, which is one of Colombia’s largest and most overpopulated prisons, appears to be only the beginning of the investigation, according to a February 18 CNN report. Authorities believe that there might be many more dissected victims in other jails including cities like Popayan, Bucaramanga and Barranquilla.
According to Caterina Heyck Puyana, a special prosecutor in charge of the La Modelo case, the investigation began towards the end of last year when reports of people disappearing at the infamous prison came in.
“The victims were inmates, visitors and people who had nothing to do with the prison. Their remains were thrown into the drain pipes of the sewer system,” said the special prosecutor on Wednesday.
Columbia has been in a civil war for the past 50 years with state forces, paramilitary groups, and rebel fighters opposing each other. Two former high profile members of the paramilitary group, Mario Jaimes Mejía, aka “El Panadero” (The Baker), and Alejandro Cardenas Orozco, aka “JJ,” continued to rule even after having been jailed at La Modelo.
“Once in prison, he [Jaimes] would reportedly bribe prison guards so that they would look the other way, and he also controlled access to one of the wings where the killings took place.”
The La Modelo prison, which is located in the center of the Colombian capital, is heavily overcrowded and home to drug traffickers, members of leftist guerrillas, far-right paramilitaries and common criminals. Corruption and weapons trafficking are widespread at the prison.
However, while criminals killing criminals might be one thing, the murder of innocent victims is something else:
Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya, who was kidnapped, raped, and tortured by Jaimes and Orozco in 2000, said on Wednesday that finding the truth about the more than 100 victims should be a priority for Colombia’s justice system. However, Columbian officials stated that they may never be able to determine the identity of the butchered 100 bodies found in the prison sewer pipes of La Modelo.