PUERTO CACHICAMO, Colombia — At 13, she left home to join the guerrillas. Now, at 15, Yeimi Sofía Vega lay in a coffin, killed during a military operation ordered by her government.
Some of the youngest children in her town, Puerto Cachicamo, led her funeral procession, waving small white flags as they wound past the school, with its mildewed books and broken benches, past the shuttered health clinic and their small wooden houses.
“We don’t want bombs,” the children chanted, marching down a dusty road to the cemetery. “We want opportunities.”
Nearly five years after Colombia signed a historic peace accord with its largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the country’s internal war is far from over.
Mass killings and forced displacement are again regular occurrences.
And young people — trapped between an often absent state, the aggressive recruitment of armed groups and the firepower of the military — are once again the conflict’s most vulnerable targets.
still grappling with atrocities committed by all sides during a conflict that left at least 220,000 dead: Did authorities know there were minors at the camp? Was the attack launched anyway?
Before the peace deal, the FARC had a grip on this region, punishing petty criminals, issuing taxes and organizing work crews, all under the threat of violence. They also commonly recruited young people.
In 2016, when the FARC signed the peace deal and demobilized, its fighters left in a fleet of boats on the Guayabero River.
Three months later, the FARC dissidents arrived, said Jhon Albert Montilla, 36, the father of another girl killed in the military bombing, Danna Liseth Montilla, 16.
Voces del Guayabero, a group of citizen documentarians.
Just as the pandemic began, the government had stepped up coca eradication in the area, prompting protests from locals who saw their livelihoods in danger. Cameramen from Voces rushed to the scenes.
As the military clashed with protesters — shooting several civilians during different encounters — Danna sat in a small shop, one of the few places in Puerto Cachicamo with reliable electricity, editing the videos and uploading them to the internet over a feeble connection.
“But her desire was to be with us in the field,” said Fernando Montes Osorio, a cameraman with Voces who was shot in one clash, leaving his hand permanently mangled.
forced to resign months later, after an opposition senator revealed that he had hidden the victims’ ages from the public.
The scandal was a major test for newly installed President Iván Duque, a conservative whose party vociferously opposed the peace deal.
His critics say his post-accord strategy focuses too much on taking out big-name criminal leaders, and not enough on implementing social programs that were supposed to address the root causes of the war.
His supporters have urged patience. “We cannot undo 56 years of war in just two years,” said Mr. Duque’s high commissioner for peace, Miguel Ceballos, in an interview last year.
identified so far by the national medical examiner’s office are between the ages of 19 and 23.
he told the newspaper El Espectador. “Children must be protected when appropriate, but force must also be used.”
In Puerto Cachicamo, Custodio Chaves, 34, has not seen his daughter Karen since she disappeared two years ago, at 13.
Mr. Chaves said she was recruited by the FARC dissidents. Since the March attack, he has been consumed by worry.
“Is my daughter hurt?” he asked. “Did she suffer or not? Was she destroyed by a bomb? Is she in pieces?”
He doubts the government will ever tell him.
After “thousands and thousands of lies,” he said, “it’s impossible to believe them.”
As many as one-tenth of the people who have died from the coronavirus in New York City may go unclaimed and be buried on Hart Island, the city’s potter’s field, according to an analysis of city data.
The analysis, a collaboration between Columbia Journalism School’s Stabile Center of Investigative Journalism and a nonprofit news website, The City, found a huge increase in burials on Hart Island in 2020 — 2,334 adults were buried there, up from 846 in 2019. The reporters, citing public health officials, attributed the increase largely to the pandemic: people killed by the coronavirus or by other medical issues that went unaddressed because of the crisis.
(There was a similar, though smaller, surge in Hart Island burials in the late 1980s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic.)
In addition to the burials, the city medical examiner’s office is storing the unclaimed bodies of more than 700 people who died at the height of the pandemic, according to Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the office. She said the exact causes of death for many of them may not be clear.
New York Times database.
About a million people are estimated to have been buried on Hart Island since it became a public cemetery in the 19th century, The City said.
City officials recently considered ending burials on the island and shipping bodies out of the city instead. But during the pandemic, when funeral homes were overwhelmed, Hart Island became a last resort, preferable to having bodies languish indefinitely in refrigerated trucks.
Melinda Hunt, the founder of the Hart Island Project, a nonprofit group that has pushed for greater awareness and access to the island, said in January that she hoped that the exigencies of the pandemic would help lawmakers and the public regard burials on Hart Island differently.
“It’s not some Dickensian thing,” Ms. Hunt said. “It’s an orderly and secure system of burials that works, especially when you have deaths on the scale of an epidemic.”