The former commander of the Colombian army, Oscar Gonzalez Peña, made “obvious” efforts to “frustrate” internal investigations into the killing of hundreds of civilians by members of the army, a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks shows.
According to the November 17, 2009 cable, the army commander planned to send the institution’s inspector general to Chile, but was overruled by then Defense Minister Gabriel Silva who instead promoted the official to inspector general of all armed forces.
According to then U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield, Silva’s move to prevent the army’s move “is a positive indication that the new MoD is willing to continue human rights reform” that was initiated under his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos after the breaking of the “false positives” scandal that implicated hundreds of members of the army in the killing of civilians to make the war against illegal armed groups look more effective.
Following a conversation on November 6 in which the Ambassador expressed the
USG's strong reservations over the transfer of IG Suarez, MOD Silva told the
Ambassador on November 12 that he had countermanded Army Commander Oscar
Gonzalez Pena's order to transfer to Chile Army Inspector General Carlos
Suarez, the official who investigated the Soacha extrajudicial executions
(EJEs) that led to the dismissal of 51 members of the Colombian Army.
Instead, Silva promoted Suarez to serve as IG of the Armed Forces, reporting
directly to him. (Note: The position normally reports to Chief of Defense
Freddy Padilla. It was unclear whether the MOD intended to change the line of
command, though as IG of the Armed Forces Suarez would have more regular
access to Silva. End note.) Gonzalez Pena had ordered the IG to transfer
effective November 9 to a four-month special project prior to becoming
military attache to Chile in March 2010. Silva said he was pleased with
Suarez' work as IG, and that he intended to give him carte blanche to be
aggressive with the Armed Forces on human rights issues. Suarez expressed
satisfaction over his promotion and his ability to continue to address
The then newly appointed Inspector General of the Armed Forces, General Carlos Suarez, told the U.S. embassy that he “attributed the surprise transfer to Gonzalez Pena’s ongoing efforts to ‘paralyze’ the IG’s approximately 150 investigations into EJEs [extrajudicial executions].”
Suarez said Gonzalez Pena had blocked approximately 30 administrative
dismissals through his influence on the two other officers who vote on
Suarez' recommendations, Deputy Army Commander General Jorge Octavio
Ardila and Army Human Resources Head General Javier Fernandez Leal.
Suarez voiced doubts that Gonzalez Pena's pick to replace him as Army IG,
General Luis Felipe Paredes Cadena, would demonstrate independence to
promote "false positive" investigations. Suarez also questioned the
military justice system's ability to act autonomously in the current
environment. Even though the military judges are ostensibly independent,
Suarez said, the system is currently "frozen" and human rights cases are
not being transferred to the ordinary justice system.
While technically General Gonzalez Pena has gotten away with transferring
an aggressive pro-reform officer out of the number three slot in the Army,
we believe Suarez will successfully carry on his work at a higher level.
We doubt that Gonzalez Pena will advance on human rights reform in the Army
without consistent pressure from MOD Silva and President Uribe.
Gonzalez Peña was replaced in July 2010.