TERRORISM | 4/9/2010 12:00:00 AM
Heriberto’s mom only found 1.000 pesos in his pockets. She believes that was his only reward for carrying a bag full of explosives in El Charco, Nariño.
Were the FARC responsible, as the authorities presume, for the child carrying the bomb? Did Heriberto, used to running errands to earn a few pesos, know what he was carrying? In any case, as the governor of Nariño (a province in the southwest border with Ecuador) Antonio Navarro Wolf stated, it doesn’t matter if he did or did not know: what they did to him does not deserve God’s forgiveness.
Heriberto’s teacher, Dolores Castillo, told SEMANA that on Thursday, march 25th (the day he was killed), the little boy used his recess to go home, with his little brother, to fetch something to eat. He was in third grade at El Canal grade school and according to his teacher, he was smart, loved math and was very quiet.
His family, made up by his two parents and 13 other siblings, is terribly poor. Sometimes they must even go to school without eating because at home, they only eat when they can. On that Thursday, they did have food at home. But his parents, who make a living cultivating coconut and selling oysters and crab, were not home yet. “It seems that he did not find anybody home and he decided to go to the pier, where he was contacted by the person who asked him to run the errand with the explosive bag”, explains Dolores.
At 4 o clock in the afternoon, Heriberto was walking, with the bomb-filled package, near the police station of El Charco, recently remodeled and reforced to resist sieges and attacks. General Gustavo Ricaurte, Police Commander for the Southwest of Colombia said that, according to his sources, the minor started to run when an agent from the station called him in order to question him. “As he fled, the device exploded”. As a result, 9 people and 3 policemen were hurt. Yet, other authorities say that the “fleeing” version is confusing and that maybe it was produced by the agent in order to prevent punishment for not having detected danger beforehand.
Rosa Estupiñan Obando, mother of the child, told this magazine that in one of his pockets they found 1.000 pesos (aprox. US 50 cents). This is what she presumes Heriberto was paid to run the errand. “I only found his two legs, his blue trouser, white socks and black shoes.” She reminisces that her child used to run errands and carry packages for a few pesos.
El Charco is a small township four hours away (on boat ride) from Tumaco. In the last century, it disappeared twice due to the fury of the Pacific Ocean. In total, more than 30.000 people live in the area, 8.000 of them in the urban quarters.
The absurdity of this tragic story is that El Charco receives more violence than it does light and water. The electricity abandons the small village at 12:00 p.m. every night and there is running water for only two hours a day. “Since 2004, the town has been attacked four times and three of these attacks were against the police” assures Susana Paredes, a local official. In 2009, for example, the community was displaced four times.
Its strategic position- near the Tapaje river and only half an hour away from the Pacific- turned El Charco into a trophy coveted by illegal armed groups. Today, it is an obligated pathway for the 29th Front of the Farc guerrilla.
The use of human bombs is not an isolated event for this Front. In July 2009, a 45 year old woman was used to introduce 30 kilograms of explosives into the police station of Samaniego, Nariño. The woman died and 8 policemen were hurt.
For the authorities, there is no doubt that the Farc are responsible for the death of Heriberto. In December, that same guerrilla group tried to set a bomb in the same police station but the artifact exploded before reaching its destiny: in that operation the brother of Alias Cachama, the guerrilla chief of the region, resulted dead.
And even though the government has offered 100 million pesos as a reward for any information on the responsibles of the crime, those who live in El Charco know reward money for opening their mouths must be enough to start over in a different town. Because In El Charco, the Farc know everything.