On Tuesday, senators filed a second motion of no confidence against Botero after a series of blunders and corruption scandals that have dragged the military’s reputation through the mud.
The ELN propaganda stunt and the arrest of one of Duque’s bodyguards over his alleged involvement in the killing of 10 people in July last year further weakened the minister’s position.
The ELN stunt
The first to follow up on Tuesday’s motion of no confidence was the ELN that released a video of a soldier announcing his desertion from the army to the rebel group. The video almost immediately went viral.
Colombia’s last-standing guerrilla group is known for its sophisticated propaganda and has tried to make optimal use of social media to justify its armed conflict with the state, discredit the government and recruit new members.
Wednesday’s video was a perfect example.
Initially dressed in full combat gear, former soldier Luis Carlos Carrillo, 22, said that he had been stationed in the northwestern Arauca province since November.
Since I was young I have defended and have fought for the people, for the farmers, because I’m a farmer, I am poor like many who have been in the army. The majority of us are poor. They kept us under their order and we had to do what they told us and honestly, because of that I took the decision to desert, because I want to defend the people, I’m not about oppressing the people and the farmers.
Former soldier Luis Carlos Carrillo
After summing up a series of abuses and crimes he said he had witnessed as a soldier, Carrillo took off his helmet.
The next shot showed the deserter in ELN gear, flanked by two young ELN fighters, calling “on all soldiers and policemen who are the sons of poor people like myself… to stop pointing your weapons at the farmers… Look at me. I am happy and content, I am free and supporting the revolution, supporting the National Liberation Army. What else can I say? We’re waiting for you, dude.”
The army confirmed the soldier’s desertion, but was forced to deny the latest allegations of abuse and criminal activity.
The presidential guard and the massacre
Hours later, the army took another hit when special prosecutors arrested a junior member of the presidential guard on charges he took part in the massacre of 10 people in El Tarra, a rural municipality in the northeastern Catatumbo region in July last year.
In this massacre, one social leader, four members of the demobilized FARC guerrilla group and five other civilians were killed.
Duque personally announced the arrest of two other participants in this massacre in October last year, claiming that “JJ”and “Noni” were members of narco-guerrilla group EPL.
The prosecution said that two men known as “JJ” and “El Enano” had been sentenced to 30 and 21 years in prison respectively and that the presidential guard and two others would be brought to trial within days.
The arrest follows weeks after presidential guards were tied to drug traffickers from Catatumbo and audio of the commander of the Vulcano task force was released in which he said his unit had been talking with the EPL.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, sources within military intelligence, whose director was fired two weeks ago, said they cooperated with the investigation that led to the arrest of the presidential guard.
Newspaper Semana reported that the presidential guard joined the military after the massacre.
Duque, the defense minister and the military remained quiet about the arrest.