A leading Colombian neo-paramilitary currently imprisoned in Argentina says the Colombian police actively supported the rise of illegal paramilitary groups.
“I can say that in Colombia an initiative like that of the appearance of the self-defense forces [paramilitaries] would have been impossible if it was not coordinated with the Public Force. Various times I have said that what is being said about [imprisoned former chief of security during the government of Alvaro Uribe and condemned in the United States on charges of drug trafficking] Mauricio Santoyo is child’s play compared to what I know about other generals. I will not speak about names to not impede my processes and for the security of my family” said Henry de Jesus Lopez Londoño alias “Mi Sangre,” a leading member of the neo-paramilitary organization “Los Urabeños” and a former member of the paramilitary umbrella organization AUC.
As a former member of the AUC in the Medellin region, Mi Sangre became responsible for the formation of urban paramilitary structures in the cities of Bogota and Medellin in the 1990’s and beginning of the 2000’s.
The neo-paramilitary was captured near Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October 2012, and has been in custody in that country ever since. In the interview with conflict-monitoring website Verdad Abierta, Mi Sangre said the Colombian police actively aided the expansion of paramilitary death squads in the 1990’s.
“The police put the zones they had under control at our service, they were permissive with us, they gave us security, they told us about any operation. They were pending of anything that threatened our security…I sat down with people from the [police agencies] GAULA, DIJIN and the SIJIN. Many of them knew me from the Search Bloc in Medellin, when we were pursuing Pablo Escobar.”
Mi Sangre said he personally bribed generals in order for them to help in the expansion of the paramilitary project in the capital of Bogota.
“Yes, I brought cash with me to restaurants, apartments, wherever they said. In the first year (2002) it was received by a captain, during the following years a captain and a colonel. This payment was religious and was destined for generals and colonels of the police. Each month, on average, I gave them 400 million pesos. I made these payments between 2002 and 2004. Additionally, a payment was given to policemen and commanders at station level…there was a payment of 60 million pesos a month to administrative staff of the DIJIN for them to erase any information about paramilitary leaders.”
The former AUC leader proceeded to allege meetings with several leading paramilitaries about the birth of the so-called Capital Bloc of the AUC in the capital of Bogota.
“At the end of the year 2000 [AUC co-founder] Carlos Castaño [told] me to visit Miguel Arroyave and Angel Gaitan Mahecha in Bogota’s Modelo prison…who wanted to bring the self-defense forces to Bogota. The idea was to show them the project in Medellin. I explained it to them, they liked it and it was also endorsed by [emerald czar] Victor Carranza. Later I sat down with the so-called ‘collection offices,’ which counted on the military capacity and organization. We gave them the support of the AUC, the security forces of the state and the same Carranza…we proposed to share the [earnings] of their businesses; half for them, assuring them we would give them plenty of work…and the other half for the self-defense forces. With this part [we] had to pay the wages, including the police. Through reunions and training sessions, like the military and political education in the schools of the Llanos [Colombia’s eastern plains] and the [Northwestern] Uraba [region] , a group of 100 young men was created.”
The neo-paramilitary claimed the AUC could not have expanded in Colombia without the help of security forces and influential politicians.
“I do not think there is any region where we could have arrived without the help of the politicians and the public force. Bogota was no exception.”
At the time of Mi Sangre’s arrest, Argentina’s national security secretary said he was “the most dangerous narco-criminal in the world…he is an extremely dangerous man, not only for his history but also for the type of organization he constructed in Colombia and in other countries of Latin America.”
Meanwhile, the commander of Colombia’s national police, Jose Leon Riaño, said the former AUC member “was realizing a reunion with members of the Zetas Cartel [in Argentina]…‘Mi Sangre’ had become one of the biggest providers to the Mexican drug trafficking cartel.”