Over 100 bodies were found dumped in a prison sewer in Colombia, at the La Modelo (The Model) prison in Bogotá, which is anything but. The bodies, butchered and severely decayed, were found under the crowded prison which is home to over 11,000 of the nation’s most violent, left-wing rebels and right-wing government supporters and paramilitary mercenaries. Officials discovered dozens of dead inmates – as well as prison visitors – hacked up and stuffed into the prison’s main sewer drain.
Reports CNN on Feb. 18: “The investigation is focusing on La Modelo, one of Colombia’s largest and most overpopulated prisons. But officials say the practice of dismembering people and tossing their remains into sewers might have also happened at other prisons in cities such as Popayan, Bucaramanga and Barranquilla between 1999 and 2001 and possibly later.”
La Modelo prison is notorious for rampant, unchecked violence. In 2,000, at least 25 inmates were killed when infighting broke out; rival inmate groups turned on one another, and the floor guards – who do not carry guns for their own safety – were left helpless. That incident was sparked by yet another body found mutilated and shoved into a sewer pipe. In the past decade alone, over 1,200 Colombian inmates have been found murdered, with the majority of them killed in Modelo prison.
According to the Human Rights Watch, while “the body count from this incident was exceptional, the violence itself was not. As evidenced by a subsequent prison search that resulted in the discovery of two AK-47 assault rifles, eight grenades, dozens of firearms, and several thousand knives, Modelo prison was a mini-arsenal, and violence was frequent.”
Special prosecutor Caterina Heyck Puyana said the Colombian attorney general’s office has been investigating the suspected body dump at La Modelo for months.
“Towards the end of last year we began investigating the possible disappearance and dismemberment of an undetermined number of people at La Modelo prison in Bogota,” Puyana said. “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.”
Investigators said they would likely be unable to identify the remains of all the bodies found in the sewer system. Several of the bodies are thought to have been dumped into the drains between 1999 and 2003. “The number of victims is unknown, it is known that it is a figure greater than 100, and could even be quite a bit higher,” added Puyana.
Drug traffickers and common criminals join members of leftist insurgents and far-right revolutionaries inside the prison. It’s a toxic mix that often leads to fighting and score-settling. Drug and arms dealing and extortion run unchecked. “In the four years that I’ve been in the Modelo I’ve seen more blood and more death than in all my life of crime,” said an inmate there, according to the Human Rights Watch.
According to CNN, the discovery of the bodies was part of an investigation of two former paramilitary group members who are accusing of bribing guards to ignore the area where the individuals were killed and dismembered. The men at the center of the investigation, identified as Mario Jaimes Mejía, aka “El Panadero” (The Baker), and Alejandro Cardenas Orozco, aka “JJ” – also face charges of torture, kidnapping and rape in the case of Jineth Bedoya, a journalist investigating the prison fifteen years ago.