A police major was arrested Thursday over his role in the paramilitary massacre of civilians in central Colombia 15 years ago, according to Semana magazine.
Vincente Castro, a senior officer in Colombia’s police force, was lieutenant commander of the local police station in the village of La Granja, central Colombia, when a group of paramilitaries led by Carlos Garcia, alias “Rodrigo Double Zero”, shot dead 5 people in 1996 — farmers and union leaders thought by the paramilitaries to be leftist guerrilla collaborators.
In 2004 Castro was tried and acquitted for failing to stop the murders. However Colombia’s Human Rights Unit prosecutor, who ordered Thursday’s arrest, has now concluded that Castro clearly failed to protect the villagers, as sources have confirmed that police knew the paramilitaries were planning the slaughter.
Ex-paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso has confirmed that the entry of the paramilitaries into the village had the cooperation of members of the armed forces including Castro — who is now being held in Facatativa prison, near Bogota.
Prosecutors have further provided evidence that the victims were not collaborating with guerrillas as claimed by the paramilitaries, but were innocent and defenceless at the time of the massacre.
The La Granja massacre is thought to have been part of a paramilitary offensive throughout northern Antioquia that left dozens dead, for which Colombia has been condemned by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The Colombian Human Rights Unit was set up in 1994 to investigate the country’s most serious human rights violations.