Colombia’s Prosecutor General announced on Sunday that it has ordered the arrest of a former governor over alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity charges.
A statement released by the Prosecutor General’s Office ordered the arrest of Benito Osorio, the former governor of the northern state of Cordoba.
Osorio, also a former executive of the controversial ranchers federation Fedegan, has been accused of forcibly displacing hundreds of civilians in the region and illegally appropriating privately owned property.
The former governor has also been accused of conspiracy and money laundering.
Displace, legalize, sell
According to the prosecution, Osorio used falsified land titles to acquire large tracts of land which eventually came under the Fedegan’s ownership.
His actions allegedly were carried out in collaboration the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), at the time the country’s most powerful paramilitary organization.
AUC troops allegedly occupied the land which was then legalized, resulting in the forced displacement of over 100 farming families.
The former governor has also been accused of using a middle-man to purchase property from the now-extradited paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso. Allegedly, Osorio met repeatedly with the paramilitary chief while he was in prison.
The former governor testified against Mancuso during the latter’s trial, as a result of which he was forced to enter a government witness protection program.
The Fedegan pit
Fedegan has been a repeated source of controversy, as many of its leaders have been accused of having extensive ties to the country’s most powerful paramilitary organizations, the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Cordoba and Uraba (ACCU) and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).
Verdad Abierta, a website dedicated to investigating Colombia’s armed conflict, stated that as part of his testimony during the Mancuso trial, Osorio accused to the current president of Fedegan of having met repeatedly with Mancuso to garner the paramilitaries support for the campaign of the country’s prosecutor general, Mario Iguaran.
According to Osorio, during Lafaurie’s time at Fedegan, “he requested the assistance of the paramilitary leaders to support the election of ex-Prosecutor General Mario Iguaran.”
Osorio is one of more than 150 of (former) congressmen and governors who are convicted or under investigation for their alleged criminal activities in cooperation with the AUC. Since the “parapolitics” scandal broke in 2006, more than 45 former congressmen and five former governors have been sentenced to prison.
FACT SHEET: Parapolitics scandal
- Asegurado exgobernador de Córdoba por crímenes de guerra y de lesa humanidad (Prosecutor General’s Office)
- Hijo de Benito Osorio denuncia presiones de José Felix Lafaurie (Verdad Abierta)
- Las cinco deudas de Fedegán (La Silla Vacia)