The horrific history of the university in Colombia where beggars and recycling workers were murdered

It was already a carnival saturday. While Barranquilla was celebrating, Enrique Hernandez Lopez’s age was slipping away from death.

The Colombian recycling company, with a broken arm and a head full of blood, arrived in the early hours of February 29, 1992 at a police station, saying that at Unibri They tried to assassinate him.

He was restless running for several minutes as if his life depended on it. Breathless added that escaped deaththat in four days he will go to Joselito.

Shot and broken in the arm, not really knowing what he was saying, he told police officers that he had entered the establishment in search of recyclable materials, at the invitation of security guards. He was led through the corridors until he reached the perimeter of the amphitheater and there he was attacked.

His version was hard to believe given the appearance of Hernandez, who was 24 years old. Someone could be crazy. But at his insistence, a man in uniform decided to accompany him to the university, at Carrera 46 with Calle 48.

whatsapp_image_2022-04-06_at_1.26.27_pm.jpegÓmar Enrique Hernández López, a survivor of the Unilibre massacre, in Barranquilla. Image: time

They tried to enter the campus to search for the alleged bodies, but the guards, who had a suspicious situation, prevented this. This caught the attention of the policeman, who asked for reinforcements to enter.

So, on the same day that Barranquilla residents will start enjoying Carnival, they discover something of The most heinous acts of murder in the city’s history.

Disfigured corpses with gunshot wounds

In a corner of the legal medicine headquarters in Barranquilla, the faces of 11 people are made of plaster. They are victims of what is known as Unilibre . massacre.

They were prepared for two years by specialists from the entity with the aim of contributing to the clarification of the facts, as well as the identification of the dead, who were found thanks to the “crazy” conviction of Hernandez Lopez, which turned out to be true. .

That Saturday, they were ready to have fun in the city. They got up with all their energy to enjoy the battle of the flowers, but, unlike what usually happens at carnival times, the news didn’t mention the party.

On the radio stations they only talked about The discovery of some bodies in the Free University. But they were not corpses with which medical students practiced. They were among the people who were killed on the premises of the institution. At the time, it was not known why.

Thanks to Hernandez, the police found that morning 11 dead bodies in the university mortuary According to the story, the recycler played dead not to be number 12.

The bodies were whole, although disfigured by blows. Nine were killed with blunt weapons, while the other three were shot.

According to investigations, early in the morning security guards called the recyclers to enter the university to look for cardboard, paper and other recyclable materials. Once inside, they never came out, as they were surprised by the blows. Even the university, better known as Unilibre, began to be called in the city as “Unitranca”.

This is how Hernandez was saved from death

At about 1:30 in the morning, Hernandez, who had only been working as a cartonero for two months, walked the streets of the city looking for items to sell in the morning in Barlovento warehouses and earning a few pesos.

Just as he passed in front of free university He heard a shout: Black, are you collecting the carton? asked one of the guards. In the courtyards are mountains of chests.” So he entered the establishment thinking that the carnival had been made.

And the young man told the media, days after the events, that when he, accompanied by four people working in the institution, arrived at the place where the carton was, he bent down to pick it up and hit him with a baton. Head.

whatsapp_image_2022-04-06_at_1.27.41_pm.jpegThe reconstruction was carried out by specialists from the Prosecutor’s Office, which allowed to clarify the facts. Image: time

He fell to the ground and they kept hitting him. Then he heard a bullet, a fatal blow, but he was still alive. He didn’t know or explain why, and no one was able to explain why everyone who pulled the trigger failed. He believed that he had to play dead if he wanted to live.

“They stripped him and put him on a table in the amphitheater and he saw there when they arrived with the other wounded man. Then they put him in a bucket of formalin, from which he got out to save himself,” wrote EL TIEMPO reporters who covered the events.

Even before he was left alone in that room, Hernandez was able to hear one of the men who attacked him say, “We just need one to meet the quota.”

The young man recalls that after a few minutes, not knowing exactly how long, the men returned and took with them a man who had been beaten, later known as Vicente Manjares, who was taken to another table.

“Then they went in with him and one of them (of the attackers) approached me and touched me and said, ‘This is still very tender,’ this is what this newspaper published at the time, titled one of the first news of the events. ‘Strange massacre.’

He noted that they discussed for a few minutes whether they would finish the job, but finally said they would continue at a later time. They went out and turned off the lights.

He waited, and when he was sure there was no danger, he got up and saw the other recycling machine that had been hit, buckets with bits of human bodies The walls and floor are stained with blood. It smells of formaldehyde.

He recounted from the hospital: “At about three in the morning I went to the door, which opened when I moved it, but I did not go out immediately, but at about 6 in the morning.”

He managed to escape through the backyard, taking advantage of the fact that no one was there, and ran to CAI, which was located several blocks from the university, where he told his story and it became known what they had done at Unilibre. He was then transferred to Barranquilla Hospital.

Organ smuggling

In those days, strangely enough, some street dwellers and recyclers disappeared from the city. However, there was no explanation until knowing the facts at the university.

The establishment has been closed down while investigations are being conducted to clarify what is happening there. Students even marched to demand that they open again and resume their classes. For some time, students of this university were stigmatized, who have nothing to do with it and nothing to do with the case.

The first assumptions of the authorities were that the disappearances of street residents in the city were connected to what happened at night in Unilever and that everything was done in the framework of an operation member trading. The victims were chosen because they arguably “did not have mourners.”

whatsapp_image_2022-04-06_at_1.29.06_pm.jpeg Saúl Hernández Otero has been identified as the person responsible for summoning Hernández to enter the university. Image: time

But the facts did not stop there. These cadavers and organs were used by medical students in their practices. There is talk of at least some 50 victims.

Initially, 14 university employees were associated with the case, and between February 29 and March 1, 1992, Pedro Antonio Filória Leal, chief of security, and security guards Wilfredo Arias Ternera, Armando Segundo Yuriles Sierra, and Sail Hernández Otero, who are allegedly responsible for summoning, beating and killing the victims.

In addition, Santander Sabalza Estrada, a medical school preparer of corpses, was arrested and accused of committing corpse butcher.

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Two days after the discovery, Saúl Hernández confirmed, from prison, that he knew nothing, although the young recycler referred to him as the one who called him to come in to take some carton.

“I went to work at 10:30 at night. I know nothing, I arrived drunk, I know nothing of what is going on there. We have nothing to do with it. Those who were there are thieves, judge those who are involved in the thread. We are not in any of that story “Some thieves were stealing there, I don’t know anything, nothing,” he said in an interview with Ernesto McCusland, who prepared a TV report 10 days after the events.

“He doesn’t have to recognize me because I never called him, and I don’t have to contact anyone at all because I’m not here to sell cardboard or anything else,” the man added.

699 pesos per body

But the security guards admitted their participation in the events and confirmed that they received 130,000 Colombian pesos (699 Mexican Pesos) for each corpse delivered to the mortuary. In addition, one of them confirmed to local media that he “crowded around 50”.

However, nearly two years later, in November 1993, those involved were released. Former guardian Eugenio Castro Ariza, who was said at the time to be the mastermind of the operation, was also released.

“The judge applied the rule of preference stipulated in the recent reforms to the Code of Criminal Procedure and imposed, in addition to the financial guarantee, a ban on leaving the country and the obligation to appear when required, in particular at the hearing on the date that was set,” this newspaper reported.

The case has gained international importance. El País de España, for example, headline: “Colombian beggars were murdered for Selling their bodies to the medical school“.

The university was not connected to the events as an institution, as it was proven that they were committed by individuals, although they worked there.
Was there impunity for the murders?

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Strangely enough, on Tuesday, February 29, 2000, eight years after the murders were discovered, five people were convicted of these events.

But the media said there was impunity. The circuit’s second criminal court acquitted the five security guards who were tried for the murder of these eight people of this responsibility, for not finding a link between them and the circumstances in which the murders were committed.

However, Pedro Antonio Filória Leal, Wilfredo Arias Ternera, Armando Segundo Urelles Sierra, Sail Hernández Otero and Santander Sabalza Estrada were sentenced, He paid 13 years in prison for attempted premeditated murder under aggravating circumstances In a monolithic contest to attack Hernandez Lopez and Vicente Manjares, who are also recyclers, with a firearm and a club.

Another of those involved, Sebastian Coelho Barbes, who was to be sentenced, was murdered in Sinaga, Magdalena.

624cdff5a99c1.jpegThe faces of the dead were plastered with forensic medicine. Image: time

At that time, the convict, with the exception of Sabalza, had been released since November 1993 because the terms of the trial session had expired. Eugenio Castro Ariza, the university’s trustee at the time, was acquitted.

After the verdict, an order was issued to re-arrest those responsible for these crimes.

In Barranquilla they do not forget this massacre, and every Wednesday of the Carnival, when Giuselito is mourning, there are also those who remember the victims. It is even said that the real culprits, brains organ trafficking gangwere not even prosecuted and only those who were responsible for giving the club fell.

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