A former guerrilla has accused Colombia’s Prosecutor General of manipulating evidence and hiding the truth about a fake demobilization, which he says never happened.
Olivo Saldaña, accused of conspiring with Colombia’s former Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo and drug trafficker Hugo Alberto Rojas Yepez to stage the demobilization of a non-existent FARC front, said the Prosecutor General had “totally missed the truth.”
The Cacica Gaitana Front — which prosecutors claims was actually made up of homeless men paid to train and act like guerrillas, then surrender to authorities — existed as a real FARC branch, said Saldaña, committing crimes including kidnapping, extortion, robbery and murder.
“There are thousands of victims who are waiting for justice, truth and reparation,” said a visibly shaking Saldaña. “Other comrades have also given statements about criminal activity.”
It was reported last month that Saldaña had accepted the charges against him, and wanted to reveal all about how the fake demobilization was set up, with the complicity of state officials.
But during a ten minute speech in front of a Bogota judge Wednesday, the former FARC guerrilla said the fraud never took place — and he had actually collaborated with the government from jail in Bogota to persuade fellow rebels to put down their arms. “Why did the national government give me a radio and a telephone to [contact] my comrades who were involved in illegality so that they would demobilize?” he said, emphasizing that Cacica La Gaitana was known as Colombia’s coffee region’s FARC company, and was part of a front containing more than 1,000 men.
“I want to know why the existence of a document [recording] the dialogue about the demobilization of the Cacica La Gaitana front has been maliciously hidden,” said Saldaña, adding that accusations against members of the army who participated in the process are “unjustified.”
The rebel said the entire case against him and the total of 11 others accused of conspiring in the fraud has been built without proof, and has not taken into account the complexity of the FARC’s internal organization.
The former peace commissioner Restrepo fled the country last month to avoid standing trial for his part in the alleged set-up.