The Assassination of Francisco Villalba, Alvaro Uribe and the massacre of El Aro

(Translated by Rachel Jacobs, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN
Volunteer Editor.)
For Guillermo González Uribe- Magazine “Number”
His name was Francisco Enrique Villalba Hernández, alias “Christian Barreto.” He was
condemned along with two of the biggest paramilitary bosses, Carlos Castaño and Salvator
Mancuso, for the massacre of El Aro; the last two [men] for 40 years in prison and Villalba for
33 years and 4 months. Alias Christian Barreto surrendered himself up to justice February 13,
1998, three months after the said massacre, in order to relieve his conscience. After from the
testimonies he offered last year before the General District Attorney of the Nation and Congress
of the Republic, he was assassinated April 23, 2009.
The massacre of El Aro has been one of the cruelest committed by the paramilitaries: during
one week they fought freely in the zone, committing outrages against its inhabitants and their
possessions: “With all the parsimony of the case, how they knew full well that no one would
stop their calculated carnage, they caught, tortured and humiliated 17 victims, burned 42 of the
60 homes, robbed 1,200 animals and forced 702 people to flee in order to save their lives. The
accounts of the acts are horrific: Dismemberment, rape, looting. Marco Aurelio Areiza (64 years
old), the shopkeeper of the town, was tied up, tortured, and his eyes, heart, and testicles were
The initial testimony of Villalba and others corroborated more with the sentence of the
Interamerican Court of Human Rights, which condemned the Colombian State for the facts,
in a rebellion that summarized the horror of the paramilitary violence in the country. Even
this sentence signals that “Colombia renounced its international responsibility…in view of the
participation of their agents and their actions”.
The cited texts that reconstructed the events talk about how the government of Antioquia lost
support, as well as the military and the police, but the authorities don’t help the poor, and
even “Members of the army have been driving cattle,” robbing the peasants. That fact formed
part of the bloody paramilitary strategy in order to combat the guerilla, to divest goods and land
to peasants, to protect the landowners and take control of regions full of drug trafficking. The
massacres of the townships of El Aro and La Granja, municipals of Ituango, were committed
in development of Antioquia and the regions that were under the influence of the guerilla,
according to the renounced paramilitary leader Salvator Mancuso. He also admitted that the
paramilitary fighters are sons of the Colombian state, and that they received training and
weapons by part of the general forces of the State. This strategy found a fertile plot of land
for the development in the private cooperatives named Coexist, legalized and supported in the
department of Antioquia and the 1990’s, during the government of Alvaro Uribe.
Francisco Villalba, the protagonist of this story, studied until the fifth grade. As a child of 10
years old he met Dandenys Muñoz Mosquera, alias La Quica, who would arrive to be the most
powerful gangster deputy that has existed in Colombia, Pablo Escobar Gaviria. When he was 16,
La Quica demanded him to work with Fidel Castro, one of the cruelest paramilitary men. From
there forward the story of Villalba is similar to that of other paramilitary men: Assasinations,
massacres, torture, betrayal.
Despite what was recounted, the news of the assassination of Villalba did not have better
transcendence in a country filled with violence. What is peculiar is that in his testimonies he
connected today’s president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Velez, with the massacre.
Villalba affirmed it before the prosecutor in February of 2008 and ratified it later before the
Commission of Accusations of the Chamber of Representatives, in November of the same year.
April 22 2009, some months after his testimony before the Republican Congress, and when
he spent barely days in prison, hit men using weapons with silencers killed him in front of his
house, in the municipal of La Estrella, attached to Medellín, when he was with his wife and their
4-year-old daughter.
Villalba said in his testimony before the Republic Congress that in the meeting that he planned
the action about El Aro “Alvaro Uribe and Santiago Uribe, Mr. Mancuso, Cobra, Noventa,
Carlos Castaño, my person, Junior and 22 men that I had under my command” were present.
He added that after the slaughter another meeting was celebrated in which more paramilitary
bosses, like Mancuso and Carlos Castaño, Alvaro and Santiago Uribe, and that the then-governer
of Antioquia “celebrated each and every one of us.” He added that the operation was fulfilled
in order to liberate various kidnapped people, between them Mario, cousin of Alvaro Uribe. He
talked further about how a governmental helicopter flew over the zone during the massacre. He
affirmed that Alvaro’s brother, Santiago Uribe, is the boss of the paramilitary group The Twelve
Apostles. He later referred to an alleged letter to president Alvaro Uribe, in which he retracted
his accusations, but he indicates that the letter is false: “I never am going to retract, I said I am
going to stay there, if they are going to kill me then they’ll kill me…” He also talked of another
letter directed to president Uribe, in which the paramilitary man Junior says that Villalba was
not the intellectual author or material of the massacre. On the subject, alias Christian Barreto
responded that in prison they proposed various ways to deny his accusations and that the only
person that he accepted was Junior.
“There is a contradiction of Mr. Junior. He says that I did not participate in the massacre of El
Aro. If I did not participate, then why am I detained, first of all because they made me recognize
the family members of the victims…”, he explains. When they told him in the questioning
that there is no record of the governmental helicopter flight in the zone during the paramilitary
actions, he responded that this comes from “the monopoly of the country, the monopoly that
they want to darken things and leave it to a liar that is throwing lies, I always have lost an
international oversight…”. One last quote of this document; after affirming that he had been
object to various terrorist attacks, Villalba adds: “…They kill me because they achieve to make
what they are doing to be quiet but the proof will come out after…There is a lot of proof that
they are doing hidden things that very soon is going to come out”.
It is not easy to believe Villalba’s testimony, but the facts generate at least various questions:
If he was such an exceptional witness, what would have been the object of the attacks and affirm
that they were going to kill him, why was he given prison time without being offered protection?
If he believed Villalba when he confessed to the massacre of El Aro, and for that the Colombian
justice sentenced him, together with Mancuso and Castaño, why now does he give credibility
to the letter of the other paramilitary in which he asserts that Villalba did not command or
participate in the acts?
Why does it quickly appear, in the Republic Presidency, a letter supposedly from Villalba in
which it assures that he was lying when he told the president , but the own Villalba emphasizes
that he did not write it?
Why does he give ample diffusion and credibility to that letter, following investigation of News
One, and report of a graph, Villalba did not write it without another prisoner that was the person
that came to the President of the Republic?
Why does the defense say that there was no record of the government helicopter that was in El
Aro during the massacre because it did not appear in the government records, but from Villalba’s
testimony, the paramilitary boss Salvator Mancuso supported in his free version of November
18, 2008 that “a government helicopter from Antioquia flew over El Aro during the massacre”.
Why in the declaration Mancuso affirms that “…the then secretary of the Governor of the
government of Antioquia, Pedro Juan Moreno, entered what was going to be El Aro in a meeting
that he had with Carlos Castaño that Salvator Mancuso attended in Tierralta, Córdoba, previous
to the massacre. Moreno had been personally asked by Castaño for an appointment to talk about
the Coexist of Urabá, one of the defenses of Antioquia”?
The massacre of El Aro is a case splashed with facts, coincidences, interrogations, and
worrisome behavior.
In defense of human rights Jesús María Valle Jaramillo, who had been denounced on repeated
occasions the paramilitary work connected to the army in La Granja and El Aro, signaled
the then governor Alvaro Uribe Vélez as “enemy of the armed forces”, and the IV Brigade
denounced criminally.
In his defense, Valle Jaramillo indicated:
“I always saw, and so I’ll reflect on it, that there was an unspoken agreement or an ostensible
omissive behavior, skillfully warped between the major of the IV Brigade, the major of the
Antioquia police, the doctor Alvaro Uribe Vélez, doctor Pedro Juan Moreno and Carlos Castaño.
All the power of the groups of self-defense has been consolidated by the support that the group
has had with people connected to the government, military class, police class and rancher
borrowers and bankers of the department of Antioquia and the country”.
A short time after making this declaration, Jesús María Jaramillo was killed.
Finally, besides to signal that Salvator Mancuso, one of the implicated men in Francisco
Villalba’s testimony, and who was extradited by president Uribe one year ago to the United
States, in an interview with the magazine “Change” entitled “With me they Extradited the
Truth,” he says, “If the self help, that supposedly were friends of the government, and to
Mancuso, the personal friend of Uribe, they do this (they extradite), that they will not do this to
FARC, who killed the president’s father.” Mancuso’s own words, citing the same in third person
as a friend betraying president Uribe. That relationship of “personal friend” from the major
leader of the paramilitaries with the president has not been recognized until now by either the
president or Mancuso.
Macuso gives further support in the said interview, talking about the presidential election of
Alvaro Uribe: “The grand majority of us support Uribe because we received instructions from
the commanders and so we did it in all the departments with influence from the North block”.
To the question about the reason of his extradition, Mancuso responded: “The government was
scared of the activities of some majors and because we were reconstructing the truth.”
In his vote reasoned about the massacres of El Aro and La Granja, the judge of the Interamerican
Court of Human Rights Antônio Augusto Cançado Tindade wrote, citing Lonesco:
“We are now subjugated by the reason of State that permits everything: the genocides, murders,
prosecution of the intellectuals…The State is the defense of crime. The State propels crime,
justifies crime…The culture, that is unique and could leave a man breathing and give him a little
freedom, is devoured by the State.”
1. Fiscalía General de la Nación, boletín de prensa, abril del 2003, “http://
2. «Uno se aburre de tanto entierro», entrevista de Villalba con Carlos Giraldo y Miguel
Garrido, El Colombiano, 24 de agosto del 2006, reproducida por la página de la Fuerza
Aérea Colombiana, “
3. «Las cicatrices de El Aro», Javier Arboleda García, revista Semana, 31 de octubre del
2008, ““http://
4. «Un alivio para la pesadilla», Carlos Alberto Giraldo, El Colombiano, 18 de diciembre
del 2005, “
5. Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. Caso de las masacres de Ituango vs.
Colombia. Sentencia de 1° de julio de 2006, “
6. «Un alivio para la pesadilla», ob. cit.
7. «Las cicatrices de El Aro», ob. cit.
8. Mancuso: «El paramilitarismo de Estado sigue vivo», 3 de abril de 2008, entrevista
con Terra, ““http://
9. Debate de Gustavo Petro en el Senado: «Siendo gobernador de Antioquia, Uribe autorizó
varias Convivir a paramilitares», “
10. «Uno se aburre de tanto entierro», ob. cit.
11. «Detalles del testimonio que involucra a Uribe y a su hermano en una masacre», Gonzalo
Guillén y Gerardo Reyes, El Nuevo Herald,” http://
12. «Francisco Villalba, un testigo que sabía demasiado», Desde abajo, http://
13. «Francisco Villalba, quien denunció a Uribe, advirtió que lo iban a matar», El
Espectador, “
14. Cámara de Representantes. Testimonio que rinde el señor Francisco Enrique Villalba
Hernández. Expediente 2394. 12 de noviembre del 2008. Fotocopia de la declaración que reposa
en los archivos del Congreso.
15. «Antes de morir, Villalba dijo que nunca se retractó de acusaciones contra Uribe», informe
de Noticias Uno reproducido por Terratv,
16. Portal Verdadabierta, “
17. «Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos condena al Estado por masacre de Ituango»,
El Tiempo, 28 de julio del 2006, reproducida por Acnur,
18. «¿Qué fue lo que dijo Jesús María Valle?», revista Semana,
19. «Las responsabilidades en la masacre de El Aro: una verdad por desentrañar», Comisión
Colombiana de Juristas,
20. «Conmigo extraditaron la verdad», entrevista con Salvatore Mancuso, Cambio, 28 de mayo
del 2009,
21. Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, ob. cit.
Guillermo González Uribe. Journalist and editor. He was coordinator of the “Sunday
Magazine” of the newspaper “The Spectator” in the 1980’s, director of the
magazine “Colcultura Gazette” in the early 1990’s and has been the director of the
magazine “Number” since its creation in 1993. He won the Planet Prize of Journalism 2002 for
his professional work and his book Children of War: Media Prize 2001 of Lasa, Latin American
Studies Association, Washington; medal of critical culture work, International Festival of
Californian Art, 2001.
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