A new investigation by congressman Ivan Cepeda alleges the paramilitary Metro Bloc was born on the estate of former president Alvaro Uribe Velez.
According to the investigation, former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez aided the rise of the paramilitary Metro Bloc. According to several witnesses, Uribe’s Guacharacas estate served as the alleged base of operations for the paramilitaries.
In June 1983, Alberto Uribe Sierra, the father of future president Alvaro Uribe, was killed by FARC rebels on the Uribe family’s Guacharacas estate. His son Alvaro sent a helicopter to save him, but when it arrived, Alberto Uribe Sierra was already dead, shot in the head by a FARC rebel.
The Las Guacharacas estate was bought by the Uribe Velez family in 1978. The estate compromises some 2,000 hectares located near the Nus river in the lush and mountainous San Roque municipality, some 20 miles east of Medellin.
In 1995, 12 years after the assassination of Uribe Sierra, heavily armed rebels from the smaller ELN rebel group arrived at the Uribe family estate, burned down the main building and stole some 600 cows. Alvaro Uribe Velez, the then-governor of Antioquia, sent an elite task force from the Colombian army to hunt down the rebels.
A few months later, the Colombian police succeeded in killing “Juan Pablo,” the ELN leader responsible for the attack against the estate, in addition to three more ELN rebels, prompting Uribe to issue a triumphant statement praising the Colombian police.
“The departmental administration […] the commander of the sixth Brigade, all the officers and soldiers in service of the institution, for their growing and efficient efforts to save the peace in the department.”
Uribe also wowed to pay a reward to information leading up to the capture of the informants who facilitated the attack against the estate.
According to Nuevo Arco Iris, there were other accounts of what really happened to the ELN commander. A soldier from the Colombian army, named Ferney Alberto Cardona, claimed the armed encounter with Juan Pablo never occurred. Instead, the ELN commander was captured by paramilitaries and handed over to the Colombian army.
“This gentleman was captured by alias Lucas and was handed over alive to major Clavijo Jesús María and [major] Abondano […] together with another man and two women, in a Trooper vehicle, then they assassinated them inside the vehicle in the surroundings of the Union municipality, reporting them as killed in action,” said Cardona.
Alias Lucas, whose real name was Jacinto Alberto Soto Toro, was a feared commander of the paramilitary Metro Bloc.
Evidence collected by Justice and Peace suggests that 1995, some months after the burning of the Las Guacharacas, the paramilitary Metro Bloc was born in the San Roque municipality. Luis Alberto Villegas Uribe, Pedro David Gallon Henao and Santiago Gallon Henao were accused of being the founders of the paramilitary group. All of them, claimed Nuevo Arco Iris, had properties neighboring the Guacharacas hacienda and had done business with the Uribe Velez family.
According to conflict-monitoring website Verdad Abierta, the Metro Bloc was a part of the larger paramilitary ACCU coalition. Its strategy was to, step by step, takeover ground from FARC and ELN guerrillas in the countryside east of Medellin, while making a simultaneous advance to challenge both local gangs and left-wing rebels in the poor communities in the eastern slopes of Medellin.
The commercial relations between the Uribe Velez and Villegas Uribe could have begun a year after the assassination of Alberto Uribe Sierra. In 1984, the Uribe Velez investment firm, represented by Alvaro Uribe, sold a hacienda to Luis Alberto Villegas Uribe. In 1990, Santiago Uribe Velez sold another estate to Gloria Elena Cano López, the wife of Luis Alberto Villegas.
In 1996 Alvaro Uribe, the then-governor of Antioquia, legalized the creation of Convivir el Condor, making Luis Alberto Villegas Uribe leader of the organization. During this year, reported Nuevo Arco Iris, there were four cases of disappearances in the San Roque municipality, two massacres of in total eleven people in the area of Providenica and the massacre of eight people in Maceo, in addition to the assassination of three people in San Jose del Nus.
In San Roque, Luis Alberto Villegas Uribe, who had by then begun using the alias “Tubo,” started a form of “gasoline cartel” with the aim of securing finances for himself and for the Metro Bloc. In late 2005, two armed men entered the office of Villegas Uribe and shot him to death. A few years later, the commander of the AUC‘s Central Bolivar Bloc, alias “Julian Bolivar,” admitted having ordered the assassination of Villegas Uribe due to the ongoing fight between the Metro Bloc and the Central Bolivar Bloc over land outside of Medellin.
Commercial relations between the Uribe Velez family and the Gallon Henao family were initiated in 1987. In this case, the former family sold a large part of the Guacharacas property to Gallon Henao. According to Nuevo Arco Iris, it was “no secret” that Santiago Gallon Henao had links to both paramilitaries and drug trafficking.
In 1998 a group of inestigators fromt the CTI realized an investigation against the financial office of the Metro Bloc. There, they captured alias “Lucas,” who would later flee from prison and demobilize in 2003. The documents found by the CTI agents indicated that money from Convivir el Condor had been used to finance paramilitary groups active in the area. Maria Patricia Trujillo, according to Nuevo Arco Iris “the right hand” of Luis Alberto Villegas Uribe and treasurer of the Convivir el Condor, received a prison sentence of eight years from a Medellin court, although the verdict was later revoked. In 2005, Maria Patricia Trujillo applied for the Justice and Peace process, claiming to have been member of the paramilitary coalition, AUC.
In declarations to the Prosecutor General of the Nation, the paramilitaries Juan Monsalve and Pablo Hernan Sierra claimed the Metro Bloc was created as an answer to the burning of Uribe’s Guacharacas estate in 1995. Monsalve claimed to have been a worker at the estate before the ELN attack and confessed to having joined the Metro Bloc in 1995. Moreover, the paramilitary claimed the base of the Bloc was the Uribe estate.
Pablo Hernan Sierra said in October 2011 that he formed part of the Metro Bloc, with his commanders being “Jota” and Carlos Garcia alias “Doble Cero.” Hernan Sierra said the group helped finance Uribe’s presidential election campaign in 2002.
The events which allegedly took place at the Gucharacas estate have proven inconvenient for Uribe. In January 2013, the Prosecutor General of the Nation opened an investigation based on events in the late 1990’s. According to the accusations, Uribe contributed to the formation of the Metro Bloc during his time as governor of Antioquia. The ex-president has denied these accusations.