CONTAGIORADIO, October 11, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
This past Saturday, October 9, there was a new act of recognition by the Truth Commission. It was an opportunity for seven ex-paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which operated in the Caribbean region of Colombia, to make voluntary admissions of their responsibility in the armed conflict.
According to the National Center for Historical Memory, between 1996 and 2006 some 50,324 people were victims of the presence of illegal armed groups. Those groups received support from business owners, politicians, and the Armed Forces themselves, to establish themselves and extend throughout that region of the country. In the Caribe, according to the database in Rutas del Conflicto, between 1996 and 2003 there were 128 massacres, 122 of which were perpetrated by the paramilitaries.
There were at least two members of the SIJIN in paramilitary operations
At the beginning of the meeting, the ex-paramilitaries explained the reasons that they had entered the ranks of the Self-Defense Forces. Uber Banquez Martínez, known by his alias, Juancho Dique, stated that he entered the ranks of the armed group when he saw that the Convivir were groups established by the government. However, he also said that the group operated in a “legal” manner only in the mornings. At night they were responsible for multiple violations of human rights.
Sergio Córdoba also said that the National Police were well aware of, and gave support to, every paramilitary operation, where the principal victims were the civilian population, and even in every attack that they carried out, there were always two agents from the National Police Criminal Investigation Section (SIJIN) that accompanied the paramilitaries.
Córdoba also described the Convivir system, repeating again that they were a group sponsored by the government, and how they even had their support in getting weapons legally, contrary to the Self-Defense Forces of former commanders like Mancuso. The seven paramilitaries also said that many of the violent attacks took place after they received information directly from the Colombian Army, which claimed that insurgent groups were present.
The paramilitaries admitted going into communities with “a list in hand” and carrying out numerous selective murders. “Our commander told us ‘kill them’. So we had to kill them, and also to dismember them so they would never be seen again,” explained Manuel Castellano, another ex-member of the AUC. Many of the victims of the paramilitaries were social leaders or members of the opposition that were accused by politicians, cattle ranchers, or the Armed Forces as guerrillas or guerrilla sympathizers.
Paramilitaries were also victims of the fear and terror of their commanders, according to Juancho Dique
Uber Banquez, besides asking pardon for the thousands of victims who suffered from his actions and those of the AUC, also asked pardon of the men under his command. According to the ex-member of the AUC, they also suffered the abuses of their superiors and were subjected to fear if they acted against the armed group or abandoned it.
Besides the responsibility of the seven men who participated in the Act of Recognition, they also pointed out the corruption and the hidden interests in the drug traffic, as enablers of the war in our country. According to Leyner Palacios, a member of the Truth Commission, these testimonies show the tangle of the conflict in which various actors took part. Palacios repeated the importance of this opportunity to “prepare us for the truth, to be prepared for the peace.”
Commissioner Palacios also stated that this is only part of the process that the Commission will be carrying out in the Caribbean region.
 Rutas del Conflicto (Pathways of the Conflict) is an independent news portal in Colombia.