The Prosecution has charged former paramilitary chief Uber Banquez alias ‘Juancho Dique’ with six massacres in which 121 people were killed, and the individual killings of six others, news source Verdad Abierta reported Thursday.
Banquez will have to respond to charges regarding the Chengue, El Salado, Mampuján, Curva del Diablo, Libertad and Retiro Nuevo massacres, along with six murders of individuals, namely, the 2001 kidnapping, torture and murder of former Workers’ Trade Union member Aury Sara Marrugo and his escort Miguel Arellano; and the kidnapping and murder of Carlos Castano, who hoped to pressure the government to negotiate with the paramilitaries.
He also is responsible for the murder of doctor Rafael Antonio Vergara Bonfante, a prominent civic leader who had denounced the ‘marriage’ between paramilitaries and members of the police, who were allegedly allowing their checkpoints to be used for criminal purposes. Of his murder, Banquez said that “we had to do it as a favour to the police.” He is also responsible for the murder of the mayor of Chalan, Sucre, Manuel Antonio Fernández Díaz, along with his driver and escort, and the killing of Elvín de Jesús Petro Pietro, because he supposedly planned to kidnap paramilitary chief Mauricio Londoño.
For these acts, prosecutors filed charges of murder and torture of protected persons, hostage taking, displacement of civilians, and destruction and appropriation of protectedproperty.
Paramilitary news source Verdad Abierta reports that Bánquez belonged to the AUC from 1998 to 2005, when he was demobilized as a founder of the Héroes de los Montes de María Bloc, whose military leader was Rodrigo ‘Cadena’ Mercado Peluffo. The head of the group was Eduard ‘Diego Vecino’ Tellez Cobos, and the group was active in the Córdoba, Sucre and Bolivar departments.
In addition to the individual homicides, Banquez will be charged with his part in six massacres, the events of which he freely accepted and responsibility for which he accepted in his confessions to the Justice and Peace Unit.
During the Chengue massacre of 17 January 2001, 100 armed men arrived in the village in the middle of the night, kicking in doors and taking 27 men to a park where they were killed. The group remained in Chengue until six in the morning, causing the displacement of 237 people, mostly relatives of the victims and residents, most of whom have not returned.
Banquez will be charged with torture and murder of protected persons, hostage taking, appropriation and destruction of property and forced displacement of civilians.
The Libertad killings of 1 June 2000 were carried out in much the same way as in Chengue, with five people shot. Five more people were killed in Retiro Nuevo on 19 April 2001, their bodies left on the road to San Pablo.
However, the El Salado massacre was one of the most horrific. Authorities had two months’ notice that the massacre would take place and did nothing to prevent it. Leading up to the killings helicopters dropped leaflets over the region, which read “Eat the chickens and the sheep and enjoy everything that you can because you’re not going to enjoy anything else.”
450 armed men from paramilitary groups all across Colombia arrived in El Salado village on 18 February 2000, terrorizing the population over three days, leaving 61 dead and forcibly displacing more than three thousand.
Indictments of Banquez for the massacres of Palo Alto, Coloso, Caracolí and Puerto Badel are pending.