A retired police general has been called to testify as part of the on-going investigation into the 1989 assassination of the popular presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, newspaper El Tiempo reported Thursday.
Former general Argemino Serna is being investigated by the Prosecutor General’s Office for allegedly failing to provide adequate security to protect Galan when visiting the city of Soacha, south of the capital Bogota.
The former head of Colombian security agency DAS has also been in custody since 2009 and is currently on trial for his decision to limit Galan’s security, despite an escalating risk of assassination.
Galan had attracted widespread support for his commitment to confront the countries powerful drug traffickers, such as Pablo Escobar, and he was the clear favorite to win the forthcoming election. The presidential candidate had also attracted the attention of dangerous and influential opponents, and he was shot and killed while campaigning for election. Questions have been raised as to why Galan, who had survived previous assassination attempts, was not better protected during such a large, high profile event.
The municipalities police chief Luis Felipe Montilla asserts that he did his best to protect the liberal leader but that his security escort was limited by security specialists, including Serna.
“I did not weaken any security scheme (…) On the contrary, it was I who was weakened,” Montilla insists. “It was not my order for the security personnel to leave Soacha and return to the Department’s central command. That was the order of colonel Leal Perez or Serna,” said the police chief.
El Tiempo newspaper noted that subsequent investigations have revealed that the relocated security personel did not undertake any important work once relocated, making the decision highly suspect. The police chief says that Leal and Serna had denied him the 50 counterinsurgant police which had previously attended such political events and that 15 counterinsurgency officers were inexplicably withdrawn prior to the event.
“I was left alone and almost helpless” Montilla explained, “What would have happened if Colonel Serna had accepted the request I made for reinforcement on the day I saw him at the Department’s central command doing nothing? What would have happened if the security personel had not been removed from the Soacha police station?”
Serna was questioned for two hours on Wednesday November 9 by the Prosector General over his decision to remove additional personnel and weaken security in the face of an escalating risk of attack.
El Tiempo claims that this is not the only basis for investigation into the actions of Serna and other officers. A police sergeant who was on duty during the attack has claimed that the fifteen counterinsurgent officers were taken from Soacha “basically to rest, because they did not undertake any other activity”. The sergeant claims that once the attack became known the officers returned to the scene of the shooting on a truck.
The newspaper reports that the witness, who was a member of the criminal investigations unit SIJN, has claimed that a warrant was falsified to justify the security relocation which left the liberal leader exposed.
The witness added that he had seen “Lieutenant Calvache Reyes, an officer named Cuervo, and a colonel whose surname was Serna, open a bottle of whisky, which they then raised in a toast”.
The Prosecture General will also be investigating the officers claim that three nights after the assassination a car arrived at the police central command and left with a sealed, cardboard box and that this happened again fifteen days later.
“The colonel told the driver: take this to the Director General, he is waiting at this address” the unnamed officer claims, adding “I approached the driver and said ‘hey, friend you drink a lot’, he replied ‘this isn’t drink, fool, these are dollars’.”
These claims are currently under investigation by the Prosecutor General, who will also be speaking to at least a dozen other security officials as investigation’s into the shooting continue.