Evidence and multiple witness testimonies indicate that Colombia’s former president, Alvaro Uribe, helped form a death squad. The big mystery is why this was never properly investigated.
The Bloque Metro, the group allegedly formed by the Uribe family and their neighbors, is hardly known abroad. The death squad’s rejection of drug trafficking kept it out of sight of US prosecutors.
In Antioquia, however, many remember the far right death squad that left at least 4,000 victims in Uribe’s home province.
The Bloque Metro was not investigated by a court until 2016, because the group was excluded from the so-called “Justice and Peace” process that sought to clarify paramilitary crimes.
By the time Uribe became president in 2002, the Bloque Metro controlled “70% of Antioquia” with a “dominant influence over the control of Medellin‘s working class districts,” the website of the paramilitary umbrella organization reportedly said before it was shut down.
At the height of its power, the group had as many as 1,500 fighters, according to the prosecution, which has called the Bloque Metro “the most militaristic and blood-thirsty” of all paramilitary groups.
ELN steals Uribe’s cattle
The story of the former president’s alleged involvement in the Bloque Metro begins in 1996, when Uribe was governor of Antioquia and the Bloque Metro appeared around the Uribe family estate, Las Guacharacas.
One day after Uribe took office, an ELN unit commanded by “Juan Pablo” reportedly attacked Las Guacharacas and stole 600 cows and half a dozen horses.
The governor reportedly sent an elite military unit to San Roque to ramp up security.
Uribe’s brother Santiago and the neighbors, the Villegas family and the Gallon family began planning the formation of a self-defense group, according to Juan Monsalve, the son of the former caretaker of the Uribe ranch who joined the paramilitary group in 1995.
Multiple witnesses confirmed to Senator Ivan Cepeda that a group of heavily armed men appeared on Las Guacharacas months after the theft.
Paramilitary commander “HH” testified before the court that he met up with ACCU finance chief Jacinto Alberto Soto, alias “Lucas,” Uribe’s chief of staff Pedro Juan Moreno and Luis Alberto Villegas in mid 1996 to formalize the paramilitary group in San Roque.
“If you wanted to form a self-defense group in the country you needed to look for Lucas. He was the person in charge to talk to these people and, if necessary, he would personally arrange a meeting with Carlos and Vicente Castaño.”
The Castaño brothers appointed one of their best-trained lieutenants, “Doble Cero,” to lead the group.
Doble Cero and 11 paramilitary fighters traveled from Uraba, where the ACCU provided military training, to San Roque and began carrying out a wave of massacres in the region.
Carlos Mauricio García
A.k.a. “Doble Cero,” “Rodrigo Franco,” “Rodrigo 00”
Doble Cero was a former army captain who reportedly received counterinsurgency training by US special forces at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia. He was assassinated by rival paramilitary commanders during the demobilization of the AUC in 2004.
The Bloque Metro assassinated a cattle trader who was accused of having bought Uribe’s cattle from the ELN, and carried out two massacres in the municipality alone while trying to locate Uribe’s cows and horses.
On October 10, 1996, the army’s 4th Brigade reported that it had killed Juan Pablo, the alleged cattle thief, in combat.
This was later denied by a soldier, who said that Lucas found the guerrilla chief and surrendered the alleged cattle thief to 4th Brigade commanders.
This gentleman was captured by alias “Lucas” and surrendered alive to Major Clavijo and Major Abondano. He was handed over alive together with another man and two women in a Trooper vehicle, then killed inside the vehicle outside the municipality of La Union, and reported as killed in combat.
Soldier Ferney Alberto Cardona
Uribe, from his office in Medellin, sent out a statement in which he congratulated the 4th Brigade and promised to reward those who had tipped off the military.
One of the military commanders Uribe praised for killing the ELN rebel, Lieutenant Colonel Jesus Maria Clavijo, was sentenced to prison in 2003 for the formation of paramilitary groups around San Roque in 1996 and 1997.
A month after Juan Pablo’s death, Uribe signed a decree that formally allowed his neighbor and business partner, Luis Alberto Villegas, to form “El Condor,” a “Convivir” private security company that was allowed to work with state security forces.
El Condor was a front company that allowed businessmen and ranchers to make legal contributions to the illegal Bloque Metro, prosecutors found out two years later.
With the funds legally obtained through El Condor, the Bloque Metro financed a massive expansion. In 1997 alone, the group carried out massacres in Vegachi, Anori, Cisneros, Santo Domingo, Yali, Yolombo, Maceo, Caracoli and Puerto Berrio.
The group also settled in Medellin where it began an offensive against leftist militias that controlled much of the city’s working class neighborhoods and slums.
The evidence of massive human rights violations committed by the Convivir groups spurred the national government to ban many in 1997, making it illegal for ranchers and business owners to finance these paramilitaries.
To compensate the financial loss, the Castaño brothers called in the help of drug traffickers like “Don Berna” and “El Tuso.”
Lucas was arrested by prosecution officials in 1998. At the Padilla parking garage he used as his office, prosecutors found much of the ACCU’s financial records that proved the Convivir groups were used to fund terrorism.
They also found evidence indicating that Lucas mediated between Uribe and the AUC.
The AUC embarked on one of the fiercest manhunts in its history.
Where is Lucas?
The prosecution officials who arrested Lucas and found the AUC’s ledger were assassinated. Others were forced to seek exile abroad. Lucas walked out of prison five months after his arrest and disappeared from sight.
One of his closest associates in the AUC leadership, HH, on multiple occasions urged authorities to investigate the alleged ties between Uribe and Lucas.
He had a beeper even from the governor, which was Alvaro Uribe at the time. Would it be because of this that the guy is never arrested?
In spite of having been linked to both the foundation of the Bloque Metro and the financial administration of paramilitary sponsors, Lucas never appeared before the court.
Uribe was elected president in 2002. According to multiple former paramilitaries, his presidential run received both financial and logistical support from the AUC.
On February 17, 2004, three months after his demobilization with Don Berna’s Bloque Cacique Nutibara, a Medellin judge archived all criminal charges against Lucas.
The AUC’s former financial chief has been a free man since and was never called to testify over the ties between the AUC and Colombia’s corrupt ruling class. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Carlos Castaño was assassinated by fellow paramilitaries two months after Lucas’ court hearing. Doble Cero was shot dead in May and Villegas was assassinated on December 5 that year.
Uribe’s former chief of staff died in a mysterious helicopter crash on February 24, 2006 in Uraba while on campaign to become senator.
The name of former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez is linked to many passages in this text and events related to the origin and expansion of paramilitary groups, and the serious acts committed by them. To sum this up, he is the man behind Pedro Juan Moreno Villa, who was his chief of staff while he served as Governor of Antioquia and who not only conceived and developed the Coosercom project as a laboratory of paramilitarism, but has also been designated as one of the 6 or 12 leaders who defined and guided the policy of the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá (ACCU).
Medellin Justice and Peace Tribunal
Uribe was re-elected in 2006, again with the support of the AUC, according to Salvatore Mancuso who took over the organization after the murder of Carlos Castaño.
I gave contributions for the reelection of Uribe to commander Andres to hire buses for political campaigning and to bring people to campaign events of the president.
Vicente Castaño was assassinated by paramilitaries weeks after Uribe’s reelection.
While many witnesses are now dead, others who could clarify Uribe’s alleged involvement in founding the Bloque Metro and possibly other paramilitary groups are still alive and available to the authorities.
Santiago Gallon, Uribe’s former business partner, was arrested on drug trafficking charges in Cucuta on Saturday. He has already been sentenced on terrorism support charges.
HH, who spent years working with Lucas, was deported from the US to Colombia in December. He and Mancuso have agreed to take part in the war crimes tribunal expected to begin hearings after the elections later this year.
Some of the fighters who allegedly worked from Uribe’s ranch in San Roque, including Monsalve, are also still alive and have cooperated with investigators.
The Medellin Superior Tribunal and the Supreme Court have ordered criminal investigations. Victims are waiting for Colombia’s prosecutor general to end its procrastination.