EL TIEMPO, December 12, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

His name had already been connected to another shipment. The government requests witness protection.

In the National Protection Unit (UNP in Spanish) they are certain that the capture of one of their drivers, registered in Cauca, is the key to breaking up a mafia festering in the agency, which could involve mid- and high-level officials.

As EL TIEMPO has reported exclusively, the Police seized one of the agency’sSUV’s last Saturday (December 10) as it travelled on the road that leads from La Plata to Popayán in Cauca Department. After the driver refused to be searched, arguing that he was an ex-Police Officer and that he was conveying a protected individual, a drug-sniffing dog found 168 packets of cocaine in the car.

EL TIEMPO has established that the vehicle carrying the drugs is a Toyota Prado TXL, with license plates KXU 434, which an armored vehicle company had rented to the UNP for the protection of officials who had been threatened or were otherwise at risk.

But the key to the case is the driver, Manuel Antonio Castañeda Bernal, a former 2d Lieutenant of Police, assigned to one of the security systems for a former UNP official: Ronald Rodríguez Rozo, the former Assistant Director for Protection at the agency.

Castañeda, 36 years old, has already been connected with another recent episode where the authorities found another illegal shipment in another agency vehicle.

Those events took place last August 20, in the sector known as Cerritos, near the city of Pereira (Risaralda Department).

The Police stopped a Mitsubishi SUV with license plates JVV-976 at a checkpoint. It was carrying 400 kilograms of marijuana. At the time, it was revealed that the vehicle was assigned to Yesid Alexander Torres Rojas, alias Mata Caballos (Horse Killer), a demobilized FARC guerrilla.


CR. Gustavo Adolfo Martínez Bustos

@PoliciaCauca – Follow

In the Municipality of Totoró police units were able to capture a subject traveling in an expensive vehicle with 168 kilograms of chloralhydrate of cocaine, 11 identification badges, and 6 National Protection Unit caps.@mindefensa@Mininterior #DiosYPatria

A judge in Paez, Cauca, approved the capture of former Police Officer Manuel Antonio Castañeda Bernal and the seizure of the drugs.

Is there a ring in the agency?

Even though Torres Rojas (a former member of the Teófilo Forero Column) was not in the vehicle, in the operation they seized a second SUV, the Toyota licensed HVP-447, and it appears that the ex-guerrilla was in that vehicle.

According to documents in the possession of the Police, the Toyota was assigned to Gustavo Jaramillo and Manuel Antonio Castañeda Bernal, the same driver that was captured this Saturday.

“The UNP Director, Augusto Rodríguez, requests that the Attorney General and the authorities protect the life of the driver, Manuel Antonio Castañedca who was driving the vehicle that was seized in Caloto, Cauca that was carrying cocaine,” was what the UNP wrote on social networks after EL TIEMPO furnished details of the capture of the driver and former Police Officer.

The caps and the badges

It’s clear to the investigators that it’s not a coincidence that Castañeda Bernal appeared in both episodes. And what reinforces that hypothesis is the fact that, besides the cocaine, this time they found the UNP caps and badges that are being used to move shipments of cocaine without being searched at checkpoints.

EL TIEMPO has established that Castañeda had already been the subject of a complaint of theft or misappropriation of a BMW, black plated, with license plates DNL-559, which had, strangely, been rented at 7 million pesos (roughly USD $1,500 at today’s exchange rates) per month.

At that time, the owner of the expensive vehicle complained that the car had been turned over to a third person. And it was established that Castañeda’s home address was a house in the St. Thomas Condominium in Acacías (Meta Department). And on Saturday, after his capture, he said he lived in a condominium in Salitre City, in Bogotá.

Crisis in the UNP?

Right now we expect a statement from the director of the UNP on this matter that has exploded while a number of persons that have a right to protection are left without an SUV.

Sure enough, just as EL TIEMPO has been reporting, several of the new drivers don’t have available the conventional and armored SUV’s that had been provided. And the previous drivers are refusing to extend the time for renting the vehicles. There is a deficit of more than 600 SUV’s.

This entry was posted in News and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.