Voices of the victims: Maira Mendez Barbosa

With the Stop Blood Coal campaign, PAX is committed to the tens of thousands of victims of paramilitary violence in the Colombian mining region of Cesar. We support these victims in their search for truth and reconciliation and push mining companies to take their responsibility and contribute to actual remedy for the victims.

The story of Maira Mendez Barbosa

Rafael Arturo Mendez Barbosa & Maira Mendez Barbosa (brother & sister) Photo © Ronald de Hommel / PAX

At two o’clock in the morning on 19 February 2001, some 30 paramilitaries appeared in our village, according to their mother, Marina Barbosa (56). They stopped at our house and knocked on the door, but I didn’t want to let them in.

‘Hurry up, or we’ll throw a grenade inside!’, the men shouted. Then they kicked the door in. ‘You support the guerrillas!’, they bellowed. They were wearing black masks as a disguise.

I said it wasn’t true, but they wouldn’t listen. We were made to lie on the ground. They searched our house for incriminating papers, and threw all our belongings on the ground.

They arrived in a large pick-up truck and an army vehicle. They took everything of value away with them, including our motor bike. They threatened to take us too, but I screamed at them: ‘If you want to kill us, just do it here!’

When they finished searching the house the paramilitaries accused my husband of being a trade union member. But he wasn’t. He did work for Drummond, though: he drove trucks for them. In the end they dragged my husband outside and shot him dead, here, in front of our house, with our children present. He had nine bullets in his body.

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