Colombia’s former peace commissioner has professed his innocence in face of accusations of fake FARC demobilizations, calling the prosecutor general’s charges against him “an outrage.”
Speaking in an interview with El Tiempo newspaper, former commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo claimed he could not see what evidence the state would present to “ensure” he committed conspiracy, insisting that he is the primary victim in the case. “I ask the state, rather than accusing me like a delinquent, that they protect me,” he said.
Restrepo, who was the government’s peace commissioner under former President Alvaro Uribe, has been accused of conspiring with an imprisoned FARC guerrilla and a drug trafficker to plan the surrender of dozens of homeless people paid to dress as FARC members from the non-existent Cacica Gaitana Front in 2006.
The former commissioner’s primary defense is that he was unaware of the false nature of the demobilizations, believing them to be genuine. He described receiving orders from the Director of Military Intelligence, saying, “I acted with confidence, I had no reason to doubt them.” When pushed on how he did not recognize the sham with his extensive experience, Restrepo replied, “I had information endorsed by the army, at the highest level.”
Restrepo expressed his fear of being put in prison, stating, “If the government is going to condemn me to death by throwing me in jail with criminals who want to kill me to shut me up, give me poison.”
When asked if he would consider fleeing the country, as did the former director of the now defunct intelligence agency DAS, Maria del Pilar Hurtado when facing wiretapping allegations, Restrepo replied, “I am not going to do such things, if they are going to crush me here, let them crush me. I have only my word and my transparency.”
If convicted, Restrepo faces being the third senior official from Uribe’s government to go to jail. Uribe’s former chief of staff Bernardo Moreno was sent to prison in July for his role in the illegal wiretapping of government opponents. In the same week, Uribe’s former agricultural minister Andres Felipe Arias was jailed for allegedly embezzling $25 million in state subsidies.
Uribe has publicly and passionately defended all three of this former aides, writing off their arrests and convictions as political conspiracies and persecution.