Senior Colombian officials investigated over paramilitary ties

Several high-ranking officials of the Colombian government are being investigated for paramilitary ties, following an eight-year sentence handed down to former ACCU leader Edgar Ignacio Fierro Florez, alias “Don Antonio.”

Former high commanders, who served in the Colombian Army, National Police and intelligence agency in the same territory as Don Antonio’s forces between 2003 and 2006, have all been targeted for investigation.

Among those being investigated are former Barranquilla Police Chief General Rafael Parra Garzon, who served as commander in 2006, Army Colonel Luis Andres Estupiñan, who is being investigated for alleged irregularities in returning two tons of cocaine in 2003, and former DAS Director Emilio Vence Zabaleta, who is accused of setting up a fake attack against former President Alvaro Uribe.

A Bogota court order stated, “The prosecution [must] set up a persecution unit against members of the Armed Forces who participated in these events, and it must happen within a reasonable time in order to report the findings. The same should be done with DAS members that were present between 2003 and 2006 in Atlantico and Magdalena [departments].”

The ACCU was a paramilitary group formed in the 1990ss in north-western Colombia by the Castano brothers, which later became part of the AUC. Under the command of Don Antonio, 81,700 people were displaced while more than 15,000 were murdered in 344 massacres. An additional 410 children were recruited to the paramilitary gang.

The former ACCU leader was convicted on charges of murdering protected persons, forced disappearances and displacements, sexual assault and conspiracy, among others.

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