By Daniel Coronell, CAMBIOColombia, May 1, 2022


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Daíro Antonio Úsuga turned over to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) a list of 63 names of individuals alleged to be connected to the Clan del Golfo. The list includes one former Minister, a former national director of the DAS,[1] six former governors, a current and previously re-elected member of Colombia’s Senate, four former Members of Congress, and two universities.

According to Otoniel’s testimony, those people and entities have had connections with the Clan del Golfo, a criminal organization that operates under the name of Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or with other criminal groups that he had been part of.

A JEP document states that they were participants in “activities of corruption that show agreements of all kinds, without express legal authority, with special groups of private paramilitary, and self-defense forces or systems”.

Alias Otoniel identified, among others, former Interior Minister and Supreme Court Justice Sabas Pretelt, convicted for buying parliamentary votes for the approval of the constitutional reform that made the re-election of Álvaro Uribe possible, in the case known as the “Yidispolítica”. Regarding the former Minister, alias Otoniel insists that he was close to Vicente Castaño.

He also testified that the former Director of the DAS, Jorge Noguera, “fixed” it with the paramilitaries so that one of them named Orlando Rivas would be appointed Director of the secret agency in Casanare. “First he was a DAS agent, he rose to Assistant Director, and fixed it so he would end up as Director. They fixed that all up here in Bogotá. The one that helped do that was Noguera, and they paid to have him put there.”

So, five percent of the public works budget in Casanare and part of Meta’s was turned over to the paramilitaries, according to Otoniel’s testimony. “If there was any tax the mayors and the contractors were required to pay, they gave 5% of it to organizing the contracts that were issued in the municipalities and the Governor’s Office.

Otoniel identified several governors. “In Casanare, there, for sure, everything was fixed with the Governor’s Office, with the Governors . . . with William Pérez, Miguel Ángel Pérez, and Raúl Flórez. Some of the time Heí Cala was in charge of that.”

The administrative corruption and armed pressure to get money out of the public treasuries and use it to finance the paramilitaries allegedly involved two universities. “There were some really big contracts for the University of Cartagena and the Sergio Arboleda University also, with the knowledge of the entire organization (. . .) The Governor gave the hospital there directly to the organization.”

The paramilitaries responded to the service by getting the people in the area to vote for their candidates or those that sympathized with them. They didn’t finance that. They collaborated on political subjects in the area so that the people would really vote for the Governor that the outside organization thought would be best.

Otoniel also identified a former Governor of Meta Department, but he made clear that he had not had direct contact with him “as I didn’t talk with him personally, but Don Jorge talked with Alan Jara. Yes, yes, the one that had been kidnapped.”

Among the 63 persons identified in the JEP document that contains Otoniel’s testimony, are Liberal Party Senator Miguel Ángel Pinto, former Senator Milton Rodríguez Sarmiento of the U Party, former Senator Carlos Cárdenas Ortiz, also of the U Party, the former Liberal Party Representative of Casanare in the Chamber, Jorge Camilo Abril Tarache, and former Mayor of Medellin Luis Pérez Gutiérrez, whose name had already been revealed a few days ago.

Because of the testimony, the JEP certified copies so that the people named on the list could be investigated by responsible authorities; in some cases by the Attorney General’s Office, and others by the Instruction Branch of the Supreme Court of Justice.

Otoniel’s testimony also includes a reference to members of the Armed Forces who are alleged to be on the payroll of the Clan del Golfo.

The temporary suspension of Otoniel’s extradition, ordered by the Council of State after a civil rights action filed by victims’ organizations, could contribute to Colombia’s finding out more. (The Council of State has since rejected the civil rights action, and Otoniel is to be extradited immediately.)

P.S.: The partiality and incompetence of prosecutor Ramón Jaimes Durán was exposed this week in the decision of Judge Carmen Helena Ortíz, who rejected his baseless petition for her recusal in favor of former President Uribe in his trial for the crimes of bribery and procedural fraud. Nevertheless, the bureaucratic rewards keep coming to the family members of this prosecutor who has been criticized.

[1] DAS. Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security.

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