By Yohir Akerman, CAMBIOColombia, October 8, 2023
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
A police report obtained by this column demonstrates that ex-President Álvaro Uribe Vélez lied when he said that in his administration “there was not one single payment made for killing innocent people”. On the contrary, the documentation and the evidence show that there was a systematic organization in which payments were made to members of the military, to civilians, and even to paramilitaries for the supposed “combat kills” that in reality were extrajudicial executions.
President Gustavo Petro, along with the Minister of Defense, Iván Velásquez and the Commander of the Colombian Army, Luis Mauricio Ospina Gutiérrez, begged pardon in the name of the State for the false positives in Bogotá and Soacha. A historic event.
Let’s remember that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, through its Order 033 of 2021, revealed that, in Colombia, between 2002 and 2008, during the administrations of ex-President Uribe, 6,402 Colombian civilians were victims of that crime. To obtain a perspective, that number is two times the number of deaths produced by the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 in the United States against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Or looked at in another way, close to 1,000 murders per year for seven years. A statistic that is too terrifying.
As a response to that event, ex-President Uribe claimed that during his administration demobilizing guerrillas was a priority, and that he always, “demanded compliance with human rights guarantees (. . .) President Gustavo Petro says our administration paid for the killing of innocent people. That’s not true. There was not one single payment made for the killing of innocent people; our policy always preferred demobilization, and, in fact, there were 53,000 guerrillas demobilized.”
False. But to explain that, we have to go where the man carrying the chainsaw told us to go: to the documents.
There is plenty of evidence that proves that in the two Uribe administrations, “combat kills” were prioritized over demobilizations. To demonstrate that, it’s only necessary to review the official charts that ranked the Army Divisions on their “combat kills”, or cite the policy of then-Commander of the Colombian Army, Mario Montoya, who said in official documents, “ ‘kills’ are not only the most important thing; they’re the only thing.”
It wasn’t until Directive 300 of 2007, pay close attention here, in 2007, when it was ordered, as of that date, when there had already been thousands of disgraceful false positives, that collective and individual demobilizations were privileged as a measure of operational results over captures. Before that, the ‘kills” were the only important thing. That was one part.
For the other part, Directive 029 of 2005 was in effect until 2008. It offered payments for information about “unascertained persons”, without any explicit limitation as to civilians. That directive, which has 15 pages, established payments for decommissioned bullets, captured weapons, and “guerrillas killed in combat”. It was an institutional policy that established a stimulus for the killing of guerrillas.
There’s no reason to forget the video that was published by the journalist Julián Martínez, who extracted it from a report by the President of the Republic in 2008, which showed how the military was paying envelopes of cash as rewards to people wearing masks and hoods.
More than that, Decree 1400 of 2006 also issued benefits to the soldiers themselves. Besides money, the evidence shows that they gave out other prizes, like time off, and decorations to the units that could demonstrate their “combat kills”.
Let’s remember that in 2008, the Uribe administration had a network of informants, made up of 2,109,696 individuals, and that that year they were paid 29,500 million pesos (roughly USD $14,750,000 at 2008 exchange rates) in rewards for “kills” that sometimes ended up being false positives. Meanwhile in 2007, they paid out 18,529 million pesos (roughly USD $9,264,500 at 2007 exchange rates). An administration that spends nearly 50,000 million pesos (roughly USD $25,000,000 at 2008 exchange rates) to help it kill its own citizens.
Those are the facts, even though ex-President Uribe is trying to ignore them or rewrite history and erase the evidence with the high tone of his voice, and the force he uses to pronounce his mendacious words.
Next, let’s focus in this column on the report that has not been discovered until now, Judicial Police No. 9-502652 from the Specialized Department Opposing Violations of Human Rights, now in the power of Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office.
The document is dated February 8, 2022, and responds to an investigation order, O.T. 22014 of August 12, 2021. This is a request to advance all of the investigation and intelligence work to investigate the murder of two people, Wilson Javier Ibarra Correa and Walser Mosquera Castro.
The homicides occurred on November 10, 2005, at the hands of the Juan del Corral Mechanized Cavalry Group No.4 of the Colombian Army in the town (vereda) of San Miguel in the Municipality of La Unión in Antioquia Department.
The investigation and the report demonstrate that these two extrajudicial executions were promoted, no more, no less, by members of the José Luis Zuluaga paramilitary bloc of the Campesino Self-Defense Forces of Magdalena Medio under the command of Ramón María Isaza Arango, alias El Viejo (The Old Guy).
As a relevant fact, we must establish that these murders, promoted by Ramón Isaza, took place 16 months after the invitation and management that the Uribe administration performed so that three representatives of the AUC, Salvatore Mancuso, Ernesto Báez, and Ramón Isaza spoke to Colombia’s Congress on July 28, 2004, urging them to speed up approval of the Justice and Peace Law. After taking a seat at the Congress, alias El Viejo continued approving operations conspiring with the Colombian Army to kill civilians. Mi Viejo was not a nice guy .
But let’s go back to the Police Report. There is a copy of Certificate 139, dated November 27, 2005, which refers to a payment made for the furnishing of information regarding supposed terrorists from the Carlos Alirio Buitrago Front of the ELN. It’s important to make clear that Wilson Javier Ibarra Correa and Walser Mosquera Castro were civilians and that they had been presented as ELN guerrillas killed in combat. Because of that, the victims’ mothers sued the Colombian government, because their sons had died at the hands of the government that was supposed to have protected them.
The Police Report establishes that the person who furnished the information regarding the location of the so-called terrorists from the Carlos Alirio Buitrago Front of the ELN, was paid a reward of 750,000 pesos (roughly USD $375 at 2005 exchange rates) with government money.
Although that figure is not alarming, the one who received it is. It was later determined that the claimant of the reward was a member of the José Luis Zuluaga paramilitary bloc of the Campesino Self-Defense Forces of Magdalena Medio. As in Gilbert K Chesterton’s novel “The Man Who Was Thursday”, when it turned out that all of the terrorists were agents who had infiltrated, then the terrorists did not exist. Only that here the accuser was the criminal, and the supposed criminal was innocent. Are we surprised? No, we’re not surprised.
That’s why it ended up being a situation in which the Juan del Corral Mechanized Cavalry Group #4 and the Colombian Army’s 4th Brigade in the City of Medellín paid for the supposed information for the two extrajudicial executions that they did in association with paramilitary groups in Magdalena Medio and that were presented as members of the ELN. The good guys turned out to be the bad guys and the supposedly bad guys were really the innocent.
To add insult to injury, and in spite of the doubts that were generated by this operation, on the day after these events, ex-President Uribe reconfirmed the whole top-ranking military leadership. At that time, the Minister of Defense was Sr. Camilo Ospina, whom Uribe wanted to have appointed as Attorney General, the entity that would later investigate, or better said, bury, the investigations of the false positive massacres. The rat would be guarding the cheese.
This all demonstrates that the Uribe administrations really did pay members of the military, civilians, and even paramilitaries for the false positives. And not only that, but he has also busied himself in creating a strategy to cover up those events with tactics that go from controlling the Attorney General’s Office, to denying the evidence, even trying to take down the JEP, the agency that has been pulling out the brutal history of this miserable chapter of Colombia. That is the truth, even though the ex-President may be trying to rewrite it.