‘Tolima local governments sponsored AUC’

At least twelve local governments in the central Colombian department of Tolima financed now-demobilized paramilitary organization the AUC, according to a statement by former paramilitary Ricaurte Soria Ortiza, reports El Espectador.

Soria Ortiz said that politicians from the municipalities of Coyaima, Saldaña, Purificacion and Guamo were among those who gave cash contributions to the AUC.

“Some mayors [paid] because they wanted to, others because of pressure from the troops,” Soria claimed.

The former paramilitary recalled several meetings between local leaders and commanders from the AUC’s Tolima Block, who “received economic commitments” from officials of different municipalities.

The town of Purificacion allegedly paid COP1.2 billion ($630,000) to the paramilitary organization each year.

Ricaurte Ortiz Soria also said that when he was involved with the AUC, the paramilitary group was part of a joint operation in conjunction with Colombia’s armed forces, and that he had been transported in an army helicopter to receive medical treatment.

Soria’s allegations were made during the trial of former Senator Carlos Garcia Orjuela, who stands accused of ties to paramilitaries.

Carlos Garcia Orjuela, the ex-leader of the Partido de la U, is accused of allying with paramilitary groups in the Tolima department in exchange for votes in the 2002 congressional elections. He is currently being held in La Picota prison, south of Bogota.

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