By Alfredo Molano Jimeno, CAMBIOColombia, August 21, 2022
translated by Eunice Gibson (CSN volunteer translator)
Iván Márquez and Jesús Santrich abandoned the peace process in 2017.
A report from the Truth Commission demonstrates that the capture of Jesús Santrich was an undercover operation by the DEA, with the support of Néstor Humberto Martínez and the Attorney General’s Office, to induce Iván Márquez to re-offend and commit a crime.
One of the major revelations by the Truth Commission passed almost unnoticed this week. A 56-page attachment, titled “The obstacles for the continuation of the peace process in Colombia” reveals unpublished details of the entrapment operation that ended with the capture of Jesús Santrich and the breaking away of a sector of the FARC, headed by Iván Márquez. The Commission was able to document the role played by Marlon Marín, a nephew of the former chief negotiator for the FARC, in his attempt to lead his uncle—or failing that—Jesús Santrich, to get involved in an illegal business that would delegitimize the peace process. In the same manner the document makes clear that the DEA designed the operation, carried out by Marín and a retired Colombian Army Colonel.
The report contains three sections: The first is centered on the effects of the capture of the former FARC negotiator, Jesús Santrich. The second reveals how they planned and carried out the operation, as well as the roles played by Marlon Marín and the retired Army officer, who can be identified as Lt. Colonel Gustavo Adolfo Calvache Prado. And the third section covers the legal debate produced by the capture of the guerrilla commander, which brought the Special Jurisdiction for Peace into one of the most difficult situations it had confronted since its creation. The report also exposes the transcriptions of the phone calls that were intercepted, and includes evidence that the Attorney General, Néstor Humberto Martínez, placed his investigative agency at the service of the operation, to the point that he authorized the use of previously seized cocaine for the frame-up.
The Truth Commission found it important to make clear the political motivations behind Santrich’s capture by the Attorney General’s Office. According to the report, the entrapment set off a new cycle of violence and placed the implementation of the Peace Agreement at risk. At the same time, it pushed hundreds of ex-guerrillas to go back to their weapons, and it sent the citizens the message that the Peace Agreement was a failure.
One of the most valuable findings about this operation is related to other attempts to entangle the Agreement. One of them, carried out against Giovanny Álvarez Santoyo, a prosecutor with the Investigation and Charging Unit (UIA) of the JEP, which involved the former prosecutor Julián Bermeo; and another against Pilar Rueda, then an aide in the office of the UIA Director, and the wife of Senator Iván Cepeda. Colonel Calvache was the protagonist of both of these attempts to provoke a crisis to discredit the Peace Agreement.
The Truth Commission also revealed a letter that was delivered to Iván Cepeda in 2017. The letter warned of a smear operation. “They are being the objects of stalking and wiretapping by a special group made up of officials from the CTI (Technical Investigation Corps), attached to the Attorney General’s Office, and coordinated under the supervision of the DEA in Colombia. This Unit is called the SIU (Special Investigative Unit) Group. Its mission is to collect evidence to connect them with drug trafficking and money laundering by the criminal gangs that operate in this country.”
The letter added that “they might possibly frame them with relationships to organized crime activity and criminal conspiracy. This group is being directed by Mauricio Nieto, who is an official of the CTI and the brother of General Nieto, the Director of the National Police. This group is operating outside of the Attorney General’s Office; they have complete autonomy, and their wiretapping equipment and technicians are mobile, and they count on immunity and the protection of the government of the United States.”
The Truth Commission sought out the retired Colonel and through five sources they were able to confirm his participation in the conspiracy against the JEP and also in the Santrich case. “Regarding his role in the undercover Santrich operation, the testimony identified by the sources pointed to the fact that this former Lieutenant Colonel has a relationship of long standing with the DEA and with members of the Attorney General’s CTI, and he has been selling them information. According to one of these sources, after his departure from the Army, he was hired by the DEA to support special operations for the Army itself, and a year later, he would participate in the operation against Santrich,” reveals the report.
Another of the testimonies collected by the Truth Commission maintains that the retired officer “was the one that taped the Bermeo video.” The source describes him as “a kind of a crooked guy, half DEA informant; to get out of his troubles with the prosecutors, he helps to flip some people. They kicked him out of the Army for being a narco, so now he’s an informant for the DEA.
Further on in the report, he’s presented as “a guy who worked in intelligence for the Army, comes from a group that couldn’t take former President Santos. He’s connected to the prosecutors and has an office with a group of people that send information to several US agencies about drug trafficking issues.”
According to data from Migration Colombia that was received by the Truth Commission, the retired Colonel has traveled to the United States 51 times between 2017 and 2021. The Truth Commission report does not contain his name because it was impossible for them to reach him in order to learn his version. However, CAMBIO established his identity definitely, using the documents that are part of their investigation.
Calvache is a military intelligence officer with a long history. He entered the José María Córdova military academy, and was in Region 7 of Military Intelligence. At the end of 2012, he moved to the 4th Brigade, headquartered in Medellín, and commanded by General Nicasio Martínez, who became Commander of the Colombian Army and left the service in the midst of the scandal caused by the documents revealed by The New York Times about the return of the false positives. In 2013 he was the commander of the Strategic Intelligence Battalion (BINTE). In spite of his service record, in 2017, Calvache did not make the promotion list and, on the contrary, he was called to defend his record, in spite of the fact, according to several sources, that Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez himself had interceded for him.
Gustavo Calvache is the brother of Jaime Enrique Calvache Prado, an Army Captain convicted for false positives who later joined the paramilitaries. He was arrested in Florencia, Caquetá in 2002. And according to sources who are familiar with his record, Colonel Calvache was one of those implicated in the case of the Andrómeda wiretapping operation, where they illegally tapped the negotiators for the government and the FARC in Havana.
The Lieutenant Colonel also figures in some judicial troubles, such as in the complaints filed by convicted ex-Senator Otto Bula, who testified that Calvache and the prosecutor Rodrigo Aldana were pressuring him to change his testimony in the Odebrecht case. Calvache has had four proceedings with the prosecutors, but they appear to be inactive now.
“Beyond the participation of this ex-Colonel, a matter that needs a good deal of explaining, the personage about whom the whole case against Santrich rests is Marlon Marín, the nephew of Iván Márquez,” concludes the report.
According to the attachment, the entrapment operation takes advantage of the historic fracture between Timochenko and Iván Márquez. The friction between the guerrilla commander and the chief negotiator of the Peace Agreement was seen by the United States intelligence agencies as an opportunity. Even before 2016, they had already located their objective: Luciano Marín, better known as Iván Márquez.
The way to get to him was through his nephew Marlon Marín, who was known as “pirulo” (“a flail”) in the FARC, but he never belonged to that organization. Marín was an unscrupulous dealmaker who basically trafficked favors, making use of his family connection with the guerrilla commander. According to the testimonies collected by the Truth Commission, Marlon Marín had served to support some jobs, and apparently, had collaborated with the DEA since 2015 when he obtained his U.S. visa.
The first link in the entrapment was registered in 2016, when the Crimes Against Public Health Unit in the Attorney General’s Office tapped the cell phones of Guillermo Grosso, President of Cafésalud, who had been charged with alleged acts of corruption. In one of those calls, Grosso speaks of another person who needs an appointment with Márquez. The speaker for the board of the EPS mentions a Marlon Marín as a way to reach the former guerrilla chieftain.
The next appearance of Marín is in November of 2016. Márquez’s nephew wants to try out some projects in the normalization areas where the guerrillas are concentrated. The proposal was worth a million dollars a month and Grosso already figured in the operation. With these elements in play, wiretapping of Marín was ordered. The prosecutors learned then that Marín was part of a corruption organization, working to siphon off funds intended for the peace. And now is when the then-Attorney General entered the scene.
“As a high official explains, Néstor Humberto Martínez, the Attorney General, asked for an appointment with the President, some time during the second half of 2017, in order to tell him about the wiretaps where Marín was trafficking influence with the money intended for the peace. Since there were international funds involved, it was very delicate, because these were funds supplied by the international community in support of the peace process.
“Along with the foregoing, Néstor Humberto Martínez mentioned, not just in his book, but also in a letter directed to President Juan Manuel Santos on October 19, 2017, that they were investigating Marín,” states the Truth Commission report.
From that moment on, the Attorney General’s Office started to hear calls in which Marín talks of “foreign business owners in some dodgy businesses”. “A masculine voice with a foreign accent (possibly Mexican or Central American) (. . .) referring to an apparent illegal negotiation consistent with moving money (“documents”) from the United States to Colombia, for the transfer or delivery of 5,000 packages or “TV sets” (could deal with illegal items or money) from Colombia to another country, possibly to México or the United States. For such purposes they would have to carry out an initial negotiation for 300, just for confidence, and later, if they could do others that are bigger (mentioning 1,2,3,4, or 5; could be thousands or millions of dollars),” states the report.
A subordinate prosecutor warned Néstor Humberto Martínez that, “in her judgment, this could have to do with some international legal activity, because in the conversations they were too explicit, as if they deliberately wanted to leave a message about what was going on.”
Another testimony warned that Marlon Marín appeared in Caquetá a month after the capture of Santrich “loaded with dough. He gave me 500,000 pesos (roughly USD $115 at today’s rates), and some little things to his relatives,” they added. “After the capture of Santrich, they gave Marlon a U.S. delegate here in Colombia to protect him and we talked to him,” details the report, which also was picked up by EL ESPECTADOR and agrees with that testimony, since it appears that the Mexicans that said they were investors were really DEA agents. They got the drugs they used to carry out the “business” from Specialized Prosecutor No. 14, Bertha Neira, and received 22,500,000 pesos (roughly USD $5,120 at today’s rates) for the purchase of 5 kilos of coca. Marín’s explanations of this are contradictory and not very credible.
“According to official information from Migration Colombia, Marlon Marín left this country on April 16, 2018, seven days after Santrich was captured. He was headed for Montreal, Canada, and he landed that same day in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. Marín traveled to the United States with men from a federal agency in that country, in order to collaborate with the legal system. The gringo government waived a petition for his extradition, and that led him to appear voluntarily before the agents of that government. Marín ended up offering to collaborate in the case against Santrich, in exchange for judicial benefits.”
At the end, the report of the Truth Commission concludes that this country still does not know what really happened behind the scenes in the capture of Jesús Santrich. It shows evidence that the DEA and the Colombian Attorney General’s Office worked together to strike at the heart of the Peace Agreement. The report points out that after the entrapment, multiple dissident groups had broken out, increasing from 7 to 20; 338 signers of the Peace Agreement have been murdered, at least half of them by their former comrades in arms who had left the Peace Agreement.
 EPS is a government-sponsoutored health insurance group in Colombia.