Investigations into extrajudicial executions ‘a bunch of crap’, says Colombia’s top general
Colombia’s second military scandal this month has ended the career of the nation’s top general and provided rare insight into the military’s readiness to block investigations into crimes against humanity.
President Juan Manuel Santos fired General Leonardo Barrero Tuesday after newsmagazine La Semana published audio recordings where he said investigations into extrajudicial executions by soldiers are “a bunch of crap.”
Barrero recommended in the taped conversation that the officer, Colonel Robinson Gonález del Rio, charged with crimes against humanity for the murder of two men to “get a mafia to denounce the prosecutors” to derail the investigation.
La Semana – which revealed earlier this month that Colombia’s military was spying on its own peace negotiators – revealed Monday a massive corruption scam where military officers were receiving kickbacks as high as 50 per cent of the value of contracts. That spying revelations cost two Colombian generals their jobs.
About 900 Colombian soldiers have been convicted of extrajudicial executions. It’s estimated there were some 4,000 victims murdered in Colombia’s “false positives” scandal in the first decade of the 2000s. Young men – who were often offered work as inducements – were killed by Colombian military and police then dressed up in FARC guerrilla uniforms. In many cases wounds on the innocent victims´ bodies in no way matched the uniforms they supposedly wore when killed.
González del Rio is charged with the death of two men who were later presented as having been murdered in combat with the FARC. Prosecutors say they are investigating him in a dozen similar cases.
In another tape González del Rio describes a three-week, “family vacation” in December 2012 , when he was supposedly locked in a military prison awaiting trial for the two murders. The military picked up the gasoline bill for his vacation, according to La Semana. González del Rio has also been charged with paying a civilian judge about $240,000 to transfer his case to a military court, where more favourable treatment is probable.
Tueday´s developments came on a day when Colombian vice-president Angelino Garzón reminded Colombia´s military leaders “it is a constitutional obligation” to obey civilian rule.
“The population has the right to know the truth about everything that is happening with human rights public policy,” Garzón said about the continuing corruption investigation.
President Juan Manuel Santos said general Barrero’s dismissal was for his inappropriate comments, and was not meant to prejudge his guilt or innocence in the corruption scandal.
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