Former paramilitary leader Miguel Angel Mejia Munera, alias “El Mezillo,” (the Twin) alleged that Colombian politicians, oil companies and the Colombian army had links with the paramilitaries in the eastern Colombian border department Arauca.
Speaking from the Colombian Court in Washington in the U.S, El Mezillo voluntarily provided testimony on Colombia’s paramilitary organizations.
Mejia was extradited to the United States on drug trafficking charges in 2009 and was a leader of the “Vencedores de Arauca” paramilitary bloc
Collaboration with the Colombia Army
According to Mejia, the Colombian army was involved in the murder of Angel Chaparro, who was gunned down on January 25 in 2002 along with Mario Ruiz Gonzalez Delgado Heliberto in Tame, Arauca only four blocks from the police station.
Chaparro was the key witness in the case against the Colombian Air Force and American pilots working for Oxy oil, who were implicated in the 1998 bombing of Santo Domingo in Arauca which left 17 farmers dead. Chaparro died in the shooting but Delgado was kidnapped.
According to the ex paramilitary Samuel Saavedra, the paramilitaries chased after Delgado when he tried to escape. When they encountered a military road block, the Colombian Army gave the paramilitaries five minutes to find and kill Delgado.
“El Mezillo” also said the Colombian Army was involved in the murder of taxi driver Alexis Wilson Pedraza in 2001. Mejia said the paramilitaries got into the taxi and told him to drive to an address near the Naranjitos Army Base.
A shoot out started when the vehicle approached an army check point but quickly stopped after the paramilitary “Boris” shouted to the army “It’s us.”
Allegedly “Boris” then killed the taxi driver by smashing his skull with a large rock. A few months later the paramilitaries contacted Pedraza’s widow to apologise after they realised they had mistaken him for a guerrilla collaborator.
Referring to “parapolitics” in the region, Mejia said that “Many trade unionists were killed thanks to information given by the governor of Arauca or by the mayor [of Tame].”
Mejia admitted to the murder of Nubia Jaime Cantor, a member of the union of health care workers, who worked as a receptionist at the Arauca Institute of Health.
The ex paramilitary “Cucuta” testified that Cantor was killed because Julio Acosta, former governor of Arauca, was “interested” in her and because she was on the list of targets that Acosta had given to the paramilitaries.
Mejia also took responsibility for the murder of the trade unionists Luis Alfonso Grisales Palaez and Professor Ana Rubiano Elizabeth Toledo, both killed in March 2003.
According to the Justice and Peace program, 28 trade unionists were killed in the area over the four years that the “Vencedores de Arauca” paramilitary bloc were active.
Collaboration with oil companies
Speaking about the involvement of businesses in paramilitary activity, Mejia said that the oil companies in the region had gone to the paramilitary warlord Vicente Castaño to ask him to ask him for protection from leftist guerrillas.
Mejia said the relationship between oil companies and the paramilitares was so strong that Julio Acosta asked them not to surrender their weapons when the “Vencedores de Arauca” demobilized in 2005.
The former paramilitary leader also said that Alfredo Guzman Ivan Tafur, the former mayor of Tame, told the paramilitary group that the oil companies would pay for the upkeep of 100 men if they did not demobilize.
Mejia said the paramilitary group cost approximately COP 1 billion a month to maintain, with every man costing about COP 1 million.
He admitted to funding the group between 2001 and 2003 with his own money, which was raised illegally through the drug trade.
However, according to Mejia the organization stopped trafficking drugs, despite its proximity to the border and the Guaviare drug laboratories, following instructions from Vicente Castaño.
Even so, the bloc aleggedly became self-financing after two years thanks to funds raised from operations including extortion, cattle farming and contributions from the oil companies.