Caracas, Venezuela (VA) – Venezuelan authorities uncovered a mass grave on Monday containing a dozen bodies in the northwestern frontier state of Tachira, just 2.5 miles from the Colombian border.
The twelve corpses were found near La Mulata, in the municipality of Ureña and all appeared to be in an advanced state of decay, suggesting that the killings took place six months ago, according to authorities.
While the victims are yet to be identified and cause of death is still uncertain, a number of the bodies are dressed in military garments and exhibit gunshot wounds as well as signs of torture.
Authorities suspect that there may be other mass graves and that the victims could be Colombians.
“It is presumed that there are other mass graves. That is the information that the armed forces are working with,” indicated local mayor Alejandro Garcia.
In recent years, the Venezuelan-Colombian border area has opened as a new front in the deadly conflict between Colombian state-backed paramilitaries and guerrilla groups, which has increasingly spilled over into Venezuela.
Since 2008, Colombia has been rocked by the so-called “false positives” scandal, in which Colombian military officers has been found to be engaged in the extra-judicial killing of thousands of civilians, mostly the poor and mentally-impaired, who were subsequently dressed as guerrillas in order to inflate body counts.
Under the far right government of Alvaro Uribe, a secret order was issued known as “Directive 29”, which offered soldiers cash rewards, promotions, and time off for every guerrilla killed.
Over 800 Colombian military personnel have been jailed so far for their alleged role in the scandal, and a further 5,000 have been implicated, including 22 generals currently under investigation.
According to declassified CIA documents published by the National Security Archive, Washington was aware of Colombian security forces’ “death squad tactics” and “body count syndrome” as far back as 1990.
Despite this knowledge, the White House has continued to funnel military aid to Bogota under “Plan Colombia”, which has totaled $6.8 billion since 2000.