The anti-kidnapping unit of Colombia’s national army kidnapped a person with the car of the nephew of army chief Nicasio Martinez who commands the unit, according to weekly Semana.
The kidnapping is one of multiple crimes committed by the GAULA, the military unit in charge of combating kidnapping and extortion, that has been revealed by the magazine.
Three soldiers have been charged with the kidnapping, the military said this week, but omitted the juiciest part, that the GAULA’s general commander, Lieutenant Colonel Cesar Augusto Martinez, is implicated.
Martinez’ latest headache, his naughty nephew
The possible involvement of the nephew of Martinez’ kidnapping plot further complicates the situation of the army chief whose position had already became untenable over a slew of reports over his alleged corruption practices and links to the killings of civilians.
Since President Ivan Duque promoted Martinez in December last year, the army has descended into an unprecedented crisis that cost six generals their job, while two others were transferred to administrative positions.
The latest member of the army’s central command whose head may roll may be that of the general commander of the GAULA, unless his powerful, but allegedly corrupt uncle takes action and secure another cover-up. Martinez has done this before, allegedly also for his nephew.
Committing the crime you’re supposed to fight
The anti-kidnapping unit of the National Police rescued a Bogota resident on July 25. Security cameras showed that the victim had been kidnapped using the car of the GAULA’s top commander, according to Semana.
The victim, the 22-year-old Estiven Beltran, was apprehended in the south of Bogota on July 20 by men wearing GAULA uniforms. The apparent GAULA officials asked the victim to accompany them, claiming there was an arrest warrant against him, the weekly reported.
The victim was allowed to call his family to inform them he was taken to the city of Bucaramanga to face charges.
The next morning, the victim’s family received a phone call from a man claiming to be the member of a paramilitary group in which they were told to pay almost $240,000 (COP800 million) or Beltran would be killed.
The family alerted the prosecution, which joined forces with the anti-kidnapping unit of the police to investigate the case, the weekly reported.
Then everything went wrong for Martinez
While prosecutors were watching the house of the victim and his family, a retired GAULA sergeant, reportedly an acquaintance of the victim’s mother, entered and advised the victim’s mother not to involve the authorities, but pay the the ransom.
The investigators decided to shadow the retired sergeant and obtained a warrant to wiretap the suspect’s phone.
Meanwhile, other investigators in charge of checking security cameras found out that the car used to kidnap Beltran belonged to the GAULA director and all alarms went off.
The investigators shadowing the former sergeant found he barely left a house in the Ciudad Bolivar district in the south and, rather than using his cell phone, used street phones.
Suspecting the former GAULA officer may be holding the hostage in that house, the investigators got a warrant and raided the house when the retired sergeant was gone.
The police officers found the victim, handcuffs and GAULA uniforms. The military almost immediately admitted the involvement of three members of the GAULA unit and, according to Semana, Martinez reported himself to the authorities investigating the kidnapping to claim he was not involved in the kidnapping.
Military inspector expects cover up
According to Semana, a military inspector whose investigations against Martinez’ cousin had been halted by the current army chief on multiple occasions said the GAULA commander is likely going to get away as he has done before because of his allegedly corrupt uncle.
Nothing’s going to be happening there. The officer is the nephew of General Martinez. Last year there were several investigations against him for alleged corruption that simply did not advance because at that time the Martinez was the inspector. Now, as commander of the Army, even less will happen.
Anonymous army inspector who investigated Martinez multiple times
The alleged interference of Martinez in corruption investigations wouldn’t be the first. Radio station Caracol demonstrated last month how the army chief blocked investigations into alleged corruption by top commanders at the 3rd Brigade in Cali earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Colombia’s National Army is in utter chaos again.
It took Duque and Martinez less than 10 months to undo the military’s 10-year efforts to recover its reputation that was shattered in 2008 when investigators found out that under former National Army commander General Mario Montoya, the army had been assassinating more civilians than all the country’s terrorist groups combined.