Luis Humberto Gomez, a former Colombian senate president condemned for paramilitary ties, died on Wednesday. The politician was 52.
Gomez passed away after a heart attack he suffered while playing squash in the Club Campestre in his hometown of Ibague, only months after an early release from a jail sentence in Colombia’s “parapolitics” scandal during which numerous local and high-level politicians were tried for associating with the country’s drug-trafficking paramilitary organizations.
Gomez was born in 1962 in Ibague, Tolema, where he would later become a highly influential political leader with strong links to the AUC presence in the area — a now non-operational paramilitary and drug-trafficking organization.
An industrial engineer graduate, he entered politics through a seat in his town council in 1986, though he later moved on from local politics to gain a place in the Senate in 1994. There he was re-elected for four consecutive periods, furthermore occupying Colombia’s highest legislative seat as head of Congress from 2004 to 2005.
Yet Gomez’s political success was crushed with the beginnings of Colombia’s “parapolitics” scandal in 2006. When the spotlight turned on Gomez and he was detained by the Supreme Court in December 2007, he gave up his place in the Senate in order to be tried by the Attorney General’s Office – an effective tactic, as he was freed less than a year later for lack of evidence.
It was not over for Gomez, however, as on December 22, 2009, the Supreme Court once again ordered his arrest and his case to be reopened. Through testimonies by demobilized members of the AUC, he was found guilty of collaborating with paramilitaries of the Tolima bloc of the paramilitary organization, as well as receiving illegal funding amounting to 300 million COP (US$156,000) by drug lord Eduardo Restrepo Victoria, alias “El Socio,” to fund his 2006 political campaign.
In May 2011, Gomez was finally sentenced to nine years in prison and a fine of 5,800 million COP (US$3 million).
At the time, this was the highest sentence given to any of the dozens of politicians who had been imprisoned in for “parapolitics” practices. Gomez is amongst the 12 out of the 13 past Presidents of the Senate to have been shamed for involvement with criminal organizations.
Accusations against Gomez also included allegedly ordering the death of colleague and member of the House of Representatives Pompilio de Jesus Avendaño, and shifting public money to fund terrorist groups.
Despite these heavy claims against his name, Gomez passed away a free man, as he was prematurely released from prison on April 10 this year. He reportedly earned the reduction of his nine-year sentence by giving classes in industrial engineering and breeding quails.
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