The former president of Colombia’s house of representatives was convicted on Wednesday of financing and orchestrating a 1988 paramilitary-led massacre that killed 43 people – a crime he previously denied taking part in.
Cesar Perez lost the 1988 mayoral race in the town of Segovia in the central Antioquia department to Rita Ivone Tobon, who ran as a Patriotic Union (UP) candidate. The UP was a political party founded by the FARC, Colombia’s largest left-wing guerrilla group, and the Colombian Communist Party. The party was eventually decimated by assassinations primarily carried out by right-wing paramilitaries.
According to Alonso de Jesus Baquero (alias “Vladamir”), one of the leaders of the Segovia attack, Perez allegedly masterminded the assault in order to gain political power.
“He [Perez] asked Henry de Jesus Perez and Fidel Castaño to remove leftists from Segovia…so he could have absolute political control over the region,” said Vladamir.
The Segovia slaughter was preceded by threats against the town’s citizens and UP members, of which Perez denied having any knowledge.
The attack eventually came to be known as one of the first paramilitary massacres carried out in Colombia. According to reports, paramilitaries descended upon the town’s main square and murdered people suspected of being affiliated with the UP. The order reportedly came down from the infamous Castaño brothers who led the AUC, the country’s largest paramilitary organization.
Investigations into the massacre began in 2010 and Perez was arrested shortly thereafter. Though he has not yet been sentenced, Perez is expected to receive approximately 25-30 years in prison. He is 80 years old.
“I respected the town’s decision,” the lawmaker said in 2012.