EL ESPECTADOR, June 18, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

It’s unheard of that such an important entity should be plagued with such serious scandals.

As if more were needed, last week brought more evidence that the National Protection Unit urgently needs to reform the procedures for its functioning and in its employment system. Added to the arrest of its former Assistant Director Ronald Rodríguez Rozo are the audio recordings revealed by the current Director, Augusto Rodríguez Ballesteros. Those events lead us to think that hired killers have infiltrated the agency. To complete the picture, the Committee on Risk Management and Recommendations at the Ministry of Interior has learned that the UNP has a deficit of more than 1,000 armored vehicles that they need to guarantee the protection of the people for whose safety they are responsible. Anywhere you look, the situation appears to be a disaster.

The arrest of former Assistant Director Rodríguez Rozo by the Attorney General’s Office fuels the suspicions, which appear to be more and more well-founded, of the involvement of criminal organizations in an agency with such delicate responsibilities for the country. One of its security system vehicles was intercepted at the end of last year in Caloto (Cauca Department) while it was transporting 168 packages containing 150 kilos of cocaine. According to reports published by W Radio, the prosecutors have also connected Rodríguez Rozo with the Envigado Office and with the La Terrazza criminal gang. It was reported on the UNP Twitter account that in the vehicle, “besides the prohibited substance, there were caps, badges, and other agency identifications.”

This situation is very serious, because the UNP is responsible for protecting the people who are the most at risk in this country. How can we trust an institution whose officials are linked to criminal organizations? In CAMBIO, Julio Sánchez Cristo published audio recordings that augment the mistrust. Furnished to the Attorney General’s Office by the current Director, they suggest that the infiltration of the UNP is much more serious than had been thought. Augusto Rodríguez has requested again and again that there be an investigation of the officials employed at the agency but up to now the investigating prosecutors have not reported any progress.

Meanwhile, the status of protection of the most vulnerable individuals is worrisome. At the end of April of this year, Colombia+20 of EL ESPECTADOR reported how the former FARC combatants fear for their lives. Speaking with this newspaper, one of the signers of the Peace Agreement in the Mariana Paéz ETCR (Territorial Space for Training and Reincorporation) in the Municipality of Mesetas (Meta Department) demonstrated the absurdity of the situation: “By means of an emergency procedure, they assigned me a conventional vehicle on March 17. It was the first time I had access to that benefit, and they told me I had to take the car for preventive maintenance in Villvicencio by the end of the month. When we got there, they told us that the vehicle had a re-collection order and my use was suspended immediately. Then they came with a tow truck and took the vehicle away. We couldn’t go back on the bus with the two bodyguards.” Just last week, SEMANA revealed that the Interior Ministry has learned that they need 1,000 more armored vehicles to guarantee the protection of the people that the UNP was responsible for.

So the agency is in crisis. As we said a few months ago, the task of Augusto Rodríguez is essential. Even though it will be difficult, continuing the UNP as it stands now is not sustainable. The Attorney General’s Office must take action, and the country has to get behind this work of reform.

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