The father of Juan Fernando Quintero disappeared after an alleged fight with his superior in 1995. Twenty-four years later, Quintero is a soccer star and the missing soldier’s superior is Colombia’s new army chief.
Then-captain Eduardo Zapateiro couldn’t possibly know that “the rude kid’s” two-year-old son would later become a celebrity with more followers on Twitter than President Ivan Duque.
‘I just want to know what happened’
While the general was promoted to army commander on Monday, Quintero told his 1.6 million followers on the social media network that he was claiming “my right as a son to know what happened to my father.”
I have the right as a son to know what happened to my father… why I have suffered and have seen my family suffer psychological and mental problems… there is the emptiness and I feel it every day … I just want to know what happened.
Juan Fernando Quintero
Ignoring Quintero was easy when he was just a poor kid from Medellin‘s 13th District walking around with a sign saying “where is my dad?”, but those days are long over.
This armed conflict victim is now the number 10 of Argentine soccer giant River Plate and made it clear that “I am still waiting for an answer.”
In a press release, the army stressed on Saturday that Zapateiro had been absolved of the charge he was involved in the “alleged disappearance” of his subordinate 2001.
But the general later promised to personally meet with them, Quintero’s brother Carlos told commercial television network Caracol on Sunday.
What happened to Quintero’s dad?
According to a 1995 Amnesty International (AI) report, Quintero’s dad presented himself for military service on March 1, 1995 at the 4th Brigade in Medellin.
Because he had a child to provide for, Quinteros was supposed to be exempt from military duty. He was forced to serve, however, because he had lost the card confirming his exemption.
Depressed, Quintero was sent to the controversial 17th Brigade in Carepa, a town in the troubled Uraba region the next day to serve under Quintero, who was the commander of the Voltigeros battalion. Three days later, the soldier had disappeared.
On March 4, Jaime Enrique Quintero’s sister tried to call him at the Voltigeros Battalion headquarters, but the commander told her that he was not on the list of recruits. The next day, Jaime Enrique Quintero sent a letter to the commander through a soldier. The commander told the soldier that he had ordered the “very rude kid” to be sent back to Medellin by plane after he attacked him with a broken bottle and tore his uniform.
An officer from the B2 Military Intelligence Unit attached to the 4th Brigade told his family that he had been ordered by the Voltigeros Brigade to exchange Jaime Enrique Quintero for another soldier, and to send Jaime back to Medellin by bus. The intelligence officer said he put him on a bus on the afternoon of March 4.
However, some soldiers from the Voltigeros Battalion told Jaime Enrique Quintero’s relatives that he had arrived at the battalion very dejected and that the commander had treated him very badly. On March 4, Jaime Enrique reacted to this treatment by attacking the commander. He was detained and some soldiers told the relatives that they saw Jaime Enrique Quintero being abused when he was transferred to the military prison cell. The soldiers also said that they saw Jaime Enrique Quintero being taken away in a vehicle that same day.
Colombia’s army: from embarrassment to embarrassment
Zapateiro was sworn as the commander of Colombia’s national army commander to replace disgraced General Nicasio Martinez, whose one year in charge of the army was marred by human rights and corruption scandals.
Martinez’ replacement was presumably meant to help clean up the army’s tarnished reputation, but that went wrong almost immediately after Duque announced Zapateiro’s promotion.
Quintero’s family took to the media to remind the public that they believe the new army commander knows more about the disappearance of her brother than the general has admitted.
Additionally, media reports made it clear that the new army general falsely presented a murdered civilian as a guerrilla killed in combat in 2014, according to media reports.