Army denied inspectors access to Tolemaida detention center: Govt

Colombia’s Minister of Interior and Justice German Vargas Lleras said that Colombia’s national prison authority (INPEC) were prevented by the army from inspecting the Tolemaida military detention center where former officers were apparently granted certain privileges, newspaper El Espectador reported Tuesday.

Vargas Lleras claims that on INPEC’s last visit to the Tolemaida detention center in the Tolima department on March 28, their director, Gustavo Adolfo Ricaurte, was not allowed to enter the military prison.

“We are asking to exercise more control because we have the vigilance to inspect but we need to be permitted entry,” the minister said.

He also reiterated his request to the Ministry of Defense for all military detainees to be moved to the Guadaus prison in the Cundinamarca department.

“There should not be special prisons for people who commit common crimes and we hope that the Ministry, as [Defense Minister Rivera] has indicated, will take special measures so that this situation does not continue,” said Vargas Lleras.

Caracol Radio report that army has confirmed INPEC were not allowed into the prison but that it was a decision made specifically by the command at Tolemaida. An investigation into the matter will now be carried out.

A recent investigation by Semana magazine revealed that military detainees could easily make business deals, go to local restaurant and clubs, spend holidays in resorts on the Caribbean coast and retain salaries and other benefits from their army careers while detained at Tolemaida.

Other government officials have expressed anger over the excessive privileges granted to former army officials, some of which have committed crimes against humanity.

Members of Congress have also demanded the immediate return of Colombia’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic, retired army general and former commander of the Colombian Armed Forces, Mario Montoya, to answer the excesses granted to Tolemaida’s prisoners, RCN Radio reported.

“General Montoya should show his face, not just for Tolemaida, but for many more things, and he should explain why he attended so well to people accused of such serious crimes,” said Senator Luis Fernando Velasco.

On Monday, Vice President Angelino Garzon condemned the luxurious conditions of the jailed army officers saying, “It should be clear that individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes, including crimes against humanity, should not have any privileges.”

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