By Andrea Aldana, El Espectador, March 1, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Let’s start talking about what’s important, about what might well be the greatest international scandal, at least in Latin America, at least in recent times, about crimes committed by a government: 6,402 innocent people—and counting—were murdered, according to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) by members of the Armed Forces and later presented as “kills” in combat against the guerrillas. The homicides were committed between 2002 and 2008, the years of the administration of the former President of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez.
At the end of October 2008, and when these homicides and the magnitude of the crime began to be made known, the journalist Félix de Bedout made public the “Permanent Ministerial Directive Number 029 of 2005. It was of a “secret” character and was signed on November 27, 2005 by then-Minister of National Defense, Camilo Ospina Bernal. The document established the ministerial policy that included, among other things, “criteria for the payment of rewards for the capture or killing in combat of heads of illegal armed organizations”, and it was something like a lucky card that puts a price on human lives, and sets forth the amount to be paid according to the status of the person you eliminated.
When the Directive came to light and controversy arose about the payment of these rewards to “an indeterminate person” (who could be any civilian), Defense Minister Ospina claimed that at the time, the goal of the rule was to regulate the payment of rewards, avoid ambiguity on the part of the Armed Forces, and make the incentive policy transparent. But it was turned into a policy that incentivized criminal activities among the military that is supposed to protect the citizens of this nation, not murder them.
The Directive established five “criteria for valuation”. The fifth criterion, which is the one that fit the majority of the innocent people that were executed by the Army and presented as “kills”, recited that it offered up to ten “minimum wage amounts” (3,815,000 pesos; roughly USD $1,900 in 2005) for “leaders and members of the guerrillas, squadrons or soldiers materially responsible for carrying out and/or supporting on the local level, terrorist actions, kidnappings, extortion, rustling, intelligence activities, ambushes, harassment, assaults on the population, attacks on military installations”.
Almost all of the crimes that are listed between the quotation marks are crimes against humanity, powerful attacks on the civilian population or acts in combat with the Armed Forces, but the “rustling” means stealing cattle. Every time that the extrajudicial executions are investigated and you ask “Who gave the order?”, it’s right there in the Minister’s Directive. The Álvaro Uribe administration put a price on, and specified how much some human lives were worth, but remember also that, besides, it put a price on the life of the thief who stole a cow, a pig, or a horse. Do you understand the disproportion? Basically, it valued the murder of a person for stealing a cow. I really don’t understand what “Democratic Security” was, but what I am sure of is that the cattlemen’s association has always been very grateful.