By Valentina Parada Lugo, Colombia2020, EL ESPECTADOR,

 June 22, 2023


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

EL ESPECTADOR has seen a 55-page document from the Attorney General’s Office that sets the date for a preliminary hearing for 25 members of the military who participated in the military operation in the town (vereda) of Alto Remanso in March of 2022. The highest-ranking soldier named in this investigation is a lieutenant colonel.

Homicide of a protected person and attempted homicide of a protected person are the two crimes that the prosecutors will charge on August 1 at 9 a.m. against the 25 members of the military who took part in the military operation in the town of Alto Remanso on March 28, 2022. The preliminary investigation, which lasted more than a year, seeks to clarify the events in which 11 people died while in the midst of a community bazaar.

According to complaints filed by social organizations, and a journalists’ investigation by EL ESPECTADOR, Vorágine, and CAMBIO magazine, at least five of the victims were civilians, yet were reported in official Defense Ministry and Colombian Army documents as guerillas killed in combat. The document in the possession of this newspaper was issued by prosecutor Hugo Tovar Pérez, Director assigned to human rights violations. It credits 78 people as victims in this case.

This newspaper was able to establish that the investigation reached the ordinary justice system six months after the events, after a judge in the military justice system ordered the file transferred to the Attorney General’s Office. Since then, the case has been reposing in the office of Luis Alfonso Cabezas Guzmán, Prosecutor 150 Specialized Delegate from Ibagué. The date and time of the hearing, which will be virtual, and which, as of now, will not be confidential, was confirmed by the Municipal Trial Court in Puerto Leguizamo last Wednesday, June 21.

The additional members of the military being investigated, for now, are a colonel, a captain, a lieutenant, four noncommissioned officers and 18 professional soldiers.

The events being investigated by the Attorney General’s Office took place on March 28, 2022, involving men who were part of the Anti-Narcotrafficking Battalion No. 3. In the morning of that day, the Army arrived at the town of Alto Remanso in Puerto Leguizamo and carried out a military operation in which eleven people were killed and at least four more were injured. The Army Commander at that time, General Eduardo Zapateiro, insisted that it had been an operation planned for more than 15 days and respecting all the protocols, and also that it had an identified target, the leaders of Organization 48 of the “Second Marquetalia” (The Border Commanders): Carlos Emilio Loaiza Quiñónez (known as Bruno) and another man, known in the war as “Managua”.

Last January, EL ESPECTADOR revealed the moves made in the Army’s interior after the scandal had appeared in the communications media. This paper related how the high establishment of the Armed Forces continued defending their soldiers in the criticized operation, in spite of the denounced excesses, the documents confirming a series of statements the community had made about the possible irregularities in the operation, and revealing unknown details about its objectives and what it was for.

One of the fatalities in the operation was the indigenous Governor Pablo Panduro Coquinche, 48 years old. the highest authority in the Bajo Remanso indigenous reservation and whom the community affectionately called Pantalón. In spite of that, that word was the alias that the Defense Minister emphasized in one of the reports on the backgrounds of the eleven people killed, for the purpose of legitimizing the operation.

The other victims were the President of the Community Action Board of the town of Alto Remanso, Divier Hernández, age 35; his wife, Ana María Sarrias Barrera, age 24; Brayan Santiago Pama Pianda, age 16; Rubén Peña, age 21; Óscar Oliva, age 40; Luis Guerrero, age 32; Enuar Ojeda, age 23; José Peña, age 40; Alexander Peña, age 30; and Jhon Jairo Silva, age 34. This last man was a signer of the Peace Agreement, according to the National Reincorporation Agency.

Last May, the Inspector General of Colombia also opened a disciplinary investigation of several Army officials for the alleged irregularities that occurred during this operation. The Inspector General’s investigation included Brig. General Walther Adrián Giraldo Jiménez, Colonel Carlos Mauricio Salgado Romero, Lt. Colonel Néstor Andrés Cadena Bautista, Capt. Jorge Erney Marroquín Cadena, Lt. Julián Ernesto Ávila Martínez, Sgt. 2nd Class Andrés Quiñónez Mendoza, and Corporals Wilson Santamaría Ramos and Wilmer Rodríguez Arango.

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