A Colombian governor who claims to have personally shot drug-baron Pablo Escobar while a policeman, has been sentenced to nine years in prison for having ties with right-wing paramilitary forces.
The Criminal Division of the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that former Governor Hugo Aguilar had used his links with the now-demobilized United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) to become governor of Santander in 2003.
He is the sixth governor elected in 2003 to have been condemned for “parapolitics,” the practice of using death squads to coerce voters into electing politicians favorable to the AUC.
During the trial former commanders of the AUC, Salvatore Mancuso and Edwar Cobos Tellez, described meeting with Aguilar in the municipality of Piedemonte to discuss “military and political support” for his 2003 campaign.
“I know [Aguilar and the AUC] were discussing the theme of regional support because those were the comments I heard when I entered the meeting,” Mancuso said in January while testifying before the Supreme Court.
Ivan Roberto Duque, or “Ernesto Baez”, another former AUC commander, said that he did a deal with Aguilar. One of the conditions of the demobilization of the AUC would be Baez having an ally inside the Santander government.
That ally was Bonel Patiño, who became Santander Education Secretary in 2004 despite being completely unknown in the region and never having appeared with Aguilar on the campaign trail.
In 2007, Patiño revealed that Baez had come to him before the election in 2003: “They are going to give us a position. I’m going to ask for the Education Secretary for you.”
Baez was also able to heavily involve himself in various gambling businesses during Aguilar’s tenure, according to the testimony of imprisoned Colombian drug lord Juan Carlos Sierra, “el Tuso”.
Aguilar shot to fame in December 1993 when, as Police Chief, images were released showing him standing on the roof of Pablo Escobar’s house after leading the successful operation to kill the drug lord.
He was governor of Santander from 2004 until 2007. His son, Richard Aguilar, now holds the post.
Aguilar is not the first governor to have been found guilty of having ties with the AUC in 2003.
Trino Luna y Hernando Molina were found to have offered key secretarial positions to the armed group in exchange for support, as was Miguel Angel Perez, former governor of Casanare, east of Bogota, and Jorge Anaya, in northern Colombia.
In nearby Bolivar, both the governor Libardo Simancas and his only opponent Alfonso Lopez Cossio went to ACU commander Mancuso for help. Both were condemned for parapolitics.
Apart from his prison sentence, Aguilar has been ordered to pay $3.2 million.
In 2011, Colombia’s Inspector General banned Aguilar from holding public office due to the accusations leveled against him.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, more than 11,000 politicians, officials and businessmen are suspected of having made pacts with the AUC.
- Aguilar, sexto gobernador elegido en 2003 condenado por ‘parapolítica’ (El Tiempo)
- El Bloque Central Bolívar de las AUC se desmoviliza en Antioquia (La Ventana)
- AUC (Insight Crime)
- Hugo Aguilar condenado a nueve años por parapolítica (El Colombiano)
- “Fui secretario por orden de ‘Ernesto Báez’” (Semana)
- Murió exsecretario de Educación de Santander que denunció a Aguilar Naranjo (Vanguardia)