[A version of this article appeared on a blog for the Kearney Hub. The meeting discussed below was part of a political science class titled Human Rights and Democracy in Colombia. The class of roughly 12 listened to testimonies from various Colombians for more than 5 hours, which was both physically grueling, on account of the hot and humid atmosphere, and emotionally grueling, thanks to the stories shared that were all similar to the one below.]

Mothers are lucky in Nebraska. When their sons go out for the evening, they come back. Mothers in Colombia are not always so lucky.

After hours of driving, our delegation met in Villavicencio with union leaders, human rights lawyers and victims of the violence from the country’s ongoing conflict. Victims gave personal testimonies of the atrocities each suffered, all with one thing in common­-the ones responsible for the murder, disappearance and even torture of the victims’ relatives were members of the Colombian military.

“Unfortunately in this country, the Colombian state is the greatest violator of human rights,” human rights attorney Carolina Hoyos-Villamil said.

One woman shared the story of her son, 22, who was in the middle of his term of obligatory military service with the Colombian army. While visiting his home, a friend invited him to go downtown for a beer.

He never came home that night.

Days later, a friend of the woman told her that her son had been at a restaurant, between two men in Military outfits, and could not control his arms or posture in the chair, as if he had been drugged.

Without this knowledge she was growing worried and began to look for her son all over town. After days of repeated assurances not to worry from the DAS, an organization similar to our FBI, they claimed that her son was a guerrilla­­­, a member of an insurgency group.

It would cost 100,000 pesos for the return of her son’s body, but a proper burial was extremely important. The wake was attended by friends and family, as well as two strangers. These men questioned many of the guests and eventually called the boy’s uncle away from the crowd. They told him that if the family tried to sue, the first person to be killed would be the victim’s mom.

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