EL ESPECTADOR, January 31, 2023
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The former commander of Colombia’s Armed Forces, Leonardo Barrero Gordillo, will have to attend a hearing in February, because of his alleged connections with paramilitary groups that operate in Urabá and other parts of the country.
The former commander of Colombia’s Armed Forces, Retired General Leonardo Barrero Gordillo, has been summoned to appear on next February 27 before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). Last year alias Otoniel accused him of being close to the Self-Defense Forces, and he must answer for those alleged connections with paramilitary structures in the Antoquia part of Urabá and other parts of the country.
The JEP contends that it is ready to summon every member of the Armed Forces who may have information about his possible involvement in crimes during the conflict. This is to accomplish the objective of clarifying the whole truth and recognizing the rights of the victims. In this case, voluntary testimony in the macrocases of extrajudicial executions and also the situation of violence in Urabá places Barrero Gordillo in the position of the offender.
“It must be emphasized that the victims and their representatives (. . .) are requesting that the party appearing be summoned to answer the accusations made against him by the witness Dairo Antonio Úsuga David (alias Otoniel) in relation to the alleged connections that he had with paramilitary structures during his service, and even in earlier years, when he served as Commander of the 16th Brigade,” explained the JEP.
Before being extradited to the United States, Ontoniel mentioned the names of very high ranking Colombian Army Officers, stating that he was familiar with their crimes during the time that he was a member of the Self-Defense Forces and part of the paramilitary strongholds. One of the first he mentioned was Barrero, who allegedly was one of the key parts of the Centaurs Bloc in Casanare in 2002. He also said that they had made payments to Retired General Mario Montoya for Barrero to be transferred to that department, at a time when, according to Otoniel’s testimony, Barrero was on the group’s “payroll”.
According to Otoniel, the arrival of Barrero to Casanare would have meant a kind of joining of intelligence with the paramilitaries. “I testify under oath that I met Generals Leonardo Barrero and Henry Torres Escalante, and I carried out joint operations with the soldiers under their command when I was a paramilitary of the Centaurs bloc of the AUC, and later on as a civilian after I demobilized in 2006 and until 2008,” he said.
Likewise, in the framework of the Macrocase in which the victimization of the Patriotic Union is being examined, the JEP has information that connects Barrero Gordillo with a faked demobilization of factions in the EPL and FARC guerrillas in 1996. At that time, the Retired General was the Commander of the 33rd Infantry Battalion of the 11th Brigade of the Colombian Army. There he had permitted those subversives to end up expanding the ranks of the Campesino Self-Defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá.
Barrero Gordillo will have to go along with his attorney, and he will have the right not to be forced to testify against himself or against his family. The investigative hearing will take place in Bogotá. The Retired General will have at his disposal all of Otoniel’s testimony linking him to crimes committed during the conflict. The JEP, on the other hand, has invited the victims in Macrocases 03, 04,06, and 08 to take part in the hearing so that they will be able to hear what Barrero Gordillo has to say about his work in the framework of the war.