Emerald magnate captured over alleged arms ties to paramilitaries

(Photo: El Tiempo)

The Prosecutor General’s department is processing leading emerald magnate Pedro Rincon, after he was arrested on Wednesday over a cache of arms alleged to have been used by paramilitaries.

Rincon had been wanted for ten days over allegations that one of his mines had stored rifles used by the now-demobilized paramilitary umbrella group AUC, reported Colombia’s RCN Radio on Thursday morning.

This latest twist came just hours before the Colombian Minister of Defense held a summit to prevent a return to the “Green War,” a conflict that plagued Colombia’s emerald-producing regions for decades.

MORE: Govt security council meets to prevent new ‘Green War’

On Wednesday Rincon was flown to Tunja in central Colombia for processing, after weather conditions prevented him being flown to Bogota.

Trouble in the Emerald regions

Earlier this month, four people died and nine people were injured in a grenade attack aimed at Rincon, in the gemstone-mining town of Pauna.

MORE: 4 dead in Emerald magnate attack, sparks fresh ‘Green War’ fears

MORE: Deceased ‘Emerald Czar’ believed current industry leader attempted to have him killed

Rincon became one of the leading figures in the Colombian emerald trade in April this year when controversial “emerald czar” Victor Carranza died at age 78. The attack sparked fears of a return to violence after a 1990 peace that brought an end to the decades-long “Green War,” a bloody factional conflict for control of Colombia’s sizable emerald trade.

Government summit

Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, a Catholic Bishop and members of the Emerald mining clans met on Wednesday to prevent a repeat of the “Green War.”

The summit came about after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Monday the government would take immediate action to prevent the escalation of violence among rival emerald-mining families in central Colombia.

“We can’t allow, for any reason, for the violence in this state to be inflamed once again, because it has become a haven of peace,” said Santos.

MORE: ‘We are not going to allow another Green War’: President Santos

A Short History of the “Green War”

According to analysis site Insight Crime, the first emerald mines in Colombia were legalized by the government in 1953. But the miners were left to resolve disputes on their own, which they usually did with guns.

In 1961, the first major clashes took place and the violence escalated into the “Green War,” as mining magnates formed paramilitary groups to defend their properties from drug traffickers and guerrillas.

In 1985, major Colombia drug cartels became embroiled in the conflict, attempting to take control of the emerald mines.

According to government sources, about 3,500 people were killed in fighting across Colombia between 1984 and 1990.

The fighting ended in the early 1990s when the late Carranza forged an uneasy peace, with the help of now-Bishop Pabon, between conflicting interests.


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