A recruiter testifies to receiving $500 from members of the Colombian Army for each young man he recruited, who were then murdered and registered by the army as enemy combatants in the “false positive” scandal, reports Sante Fe radio.
Speaking before a judge in Bogota today, Alexander Carretero Diaz testified to being hired by army soldiers to recruit young men in the town of Soacha, south of Bogota, receiving payment of $500 for each successful recruit, plus travel and food expenses.
The young men were then murdered and registered by the army as enemy guerrillas killed in combat, to inflate the army’s kill count of enemy units.
Diaz described recruiting 26-year-old Farid Leonardo Porras in Soacha in early 2008, before transporting him to Santander, northern Colombia, where he was reported as killed in combat soon after. According to Diaz, “I heard a while later that he had been killed, but I never knew by whom, or when, or why.”
Diaz denied knowing why young men such as Porras were being moved to this region, or whether senior officers were aware of the situation.
However, he named Sargent Dairo Jose Palomino Ballesteros, who worked at the Santander battalion, as the officer who approached him in late 2007 and asked him to recruit in the Soacha region. Diaz reported, “Dairo told me they [recruits] had to be young, and that homeless youth would be accepted, once they showed no deterioration in physical health.”
Diaz reported “I just told those recruited that better employment opportunities existed elsewhere, and then brought them there.” He described leaving recruits, including Porras, at a military checkpoint in Santander in the care of Sargent Ballestros, and that he never actually saw them in uniform.
The “false positives” scandal first came to light in 2008, when men who had disappeared from Soacha were found in a mass grave near the Venezuelan border. There have been an estimated 3,000 cases of false positive killings by the Colombian armed forces since 2002.