SEMANA, August 13, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The arrival of a new administration brings with it changes at different levels, and a few days after his inauguration, President Gustavo Petro went ahead and announced officially the names of those who will be part of his new military command staff.
At a press conference this Friday, August 12, the President listed the names of the commanders of Colombia’s armed forces. The transition implied a shift in those institutions, a shake-up that put their members on the alert.
There was a mass layoff in the National Police, where more than 20 generals were retired from their positions, when Major General Henry Armando Sanabria Cely was named Director, and Brigadier General Yackeline Navarro Ordóñez was named Assistant Director. After the decision the agency was left with only 12 Generals of the 33 that it had before the transition.
Added to that was a recent message sent by the President in which he delivered a serious warning to the military and police forces.
“The commission of massacres and their remaining in impunity in the jurisdictions of military and police commanders will affect the service records of those commanders,” he pronounced.
In the same manner, he indicated that the responsibility for being vigilant and keeping those things from happening will be on the armed forces in charge of each region, and they must take the consequences for the prevalence of such criminal acts. “From now on every military or police commander must work in their jurisdiction toward neutralizing to the maximum the commission of massacres or killings of social leaders,” he added.
The commission of massacres and their impunity in the jurisdiction of a military or police commander will affect the service records of such commanders. From now on every military or police commander must work in their jurisdiction toward neutralizing to the maximum the commission of massacres or killings of social leaders.
1:17 p.m. 13 August 2022
The Association of Retired Military Forces of Colombia (Acore in Spanish), which represents officers in the active reserve, declared that the President is unloading his political responsibility onto the military while he is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in the country.
President Gustavo Petro’s plans for the Armed Forces generated some doubt during his campaign, where he defended the necessity of reforming the Police, including proposals for dismantling Esmad and moving the Police into a new ministry named Ministry of Peace, Coexistence, and Security. That last (Esmad) continues in effect, as Iván Velásquez, Minister of Defense, responsible for the Police, has affirmed.
Everything indicates that since the incoming administration has undertaken the change in the Armed Forces that it had supported, its first steps have generated some anxiety in the ranks of the Police and the military.
“This sounds like a payback, like you’re getting even with the Police. This decision is putting us up against the wall; it’s not worth it now to be a General,” claimed one of the Generals retired from the Police with a career of more than 30 years of service, after the exit of the 21 Generals.
That’s not the only officer who expressed his concern, the same as other officers did when they described the President’s decision as unprecedented.
“No words. You expect changes in the command staff with every new administration, but it’s normally three to five Generals that have to step aside. This is unique, historic in the institution. The record was the exit of 13 Generals when General Naranjo took over,” they said.
President Gustavo Petro had already made a statement about the controversy, indicating that it’s natural in every situation that goes along with making a decision that there would be space for some unfairness.
Our new armed forces command staff. It will be a strategy of human security where guarding over the lives, the rights, and the liberties of the people will be what’s fundamental.
4:45 p.m. 12 August, 2022
“I’m not going to say the decisions are perfect; there are always degrees of unfairness, and I have to thank every person leaving the service because of these decisions,” were his words.
The measure is keeping the officers on high alert to the possibility that they might be next on the list of changes. But not only that, the worry that is confirmed in the institutions goes beyond personal career interests; rather they fear for the security of the regions, given that with the exits of the generals they have lost officers with experience in the security of the citizens, in intelligence, and the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.
 Esmad is Colombia’s much criticized “Anti-Disturbance Squadron”.