EL ESPECTADOR, September 29, 2020


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Padre died at the age of 87. Ever since he was arrested in 1995, prosecutors have maintained that he was connected to an investigation for his alleged participation in the paramilitary group, but he was never convicted.

The priest Gonzalo Palacio Palacio died in Medellín at the age of 87. He died while an investigation was in progress about his alleged participation in the paramilitary group that prepared the territory for the drug trafficking cartels. For many, there was no doubt at all; the priest had rounded out the group that had been baptized with the name known by anybody that knew the history of this country: The 12 Apostles.

That a priest is an alleged member of a squad that committed murders and tortures, among other crimes, makes your hair stand on end. It’s said that he arrived in the town of Yarumal (Antioquia Province) when he was about to turn 60 years old, and was installed in Our Lady of Mercy Church, where he worked as the right hand of the parish priest.

And he was no ordinary priest. They say he dressed in a black cassock, buttoned from head to foot; strangely, one Bible wasn’t enough for him; he preferred to walk with two. They say a revolver was hidden in one of them; and he showed tremendous interest in the “sins” that the faithful confessed to him. Seemingly curious, he would probe and forage for the most minute details of each fault, so as to impose the appropriate penance.

The strenuous procedure of the confessions that Palacio carried out reached a point where he asked the faithful for the photos of the people that were involved in the confessions. To the point where, if the believer didn’t turn over everything that he had demanded for obtaining God’s forgiveness, he would not prescribe a penance or grant God’s blessing.

But the horror began to spread throughout the region when the residents started to notice, strangely enough, that many of the people mentioned in the confessions were being killed by hit men or by Army Soldiers or by the Police. They would find the rotting bodies of the dead lying in the road or in a field.

“In the midst of the terror that was spread in the region for a prolonged and increasing period, in which the people that Palacio Palacio had inquired about in the confessions were being murdered, members of the National Police in Yarumal started to tie the dead bodies to the front bumpers of their Nissan Patrol cars from their stations, to exhibit them during slow trips around the town. Something that had never been seen before,” recounted Gonzalo Guillén in La Nueva Prensa.

Curiously, the victims of these slaughters were drug addicts, prostitutes, drifters, leftists and homosexuals. It didn’t take the people long to figure out that a group of well-off ranchers in the town were allied with the Police and the Army to carry out selective killings, also known as “social cleansing”. The victims were people who made them uncomfortable and who were not aligned with the social and religious ideals that they professed.

The criminal organization had been commanded by Santiago Uribe (brother of the former President Álvaro Uribe), who on February 29, 2016 was arrested for the alleged formation of this paramilitary group and for his participation in the crimes committed under the protection of the Armed Forces in the region. The legal process, apparently, is nearly complete, because it’s expected that Santiago Uribe will confront the trial stage in the next few months.

Cautiously and stealthily, the community was able to connect the dots, and figure out that the people that were committing these barbarous acts were eleven men who, along with the priest, made up “the 12 Apostles”. It’s said that those men were instructed by the soldiers of the Armed Forces themselves at the La Carolina ranch, owned by the Uribe Vélez family, located in northern Antioquia, where they raised fighting bulls.

Fr. Palacio Palacio was captured by the CTI (Technical Investigation Group) in 1995, in Laureles (Medellín Municipality), for his alleged participation in the paramilitary group. In 1997 he was set free on bail, but still connected to the proceedings. The investigation went on for years, but nothing was proved. Up until the time of his death, reported on Saturday, September 26, the prosecutors had not been able to conclude their investigation, and the alleged crimes committed by the priest have passed into history, as a story, a horror story.

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