The U.S. questioned the 2006 demobilization of a group of FARC guerrillas, which recent allegations say was faked by the governement, days after the event, according to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks to El Espectador Thursday.
The cable from March 22, 2006 entitled “FARC DEMOBILIZATION OF 70: Landmark Event or Telenovela?” said some initial reports from the Colombian government raised doubts about the legitimacy of the demobilization of members of the FARC’s Cacica Gaitana Front.
The surrendering individuals, who numbered 70 according to the leaked cable but 66 in other reports, were allegedly part of a plot carried out in coordination with former peace comissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo and imprisoned FARC member, Olivo Saldaña.
“First, it emerged that the unit’s leader, alias Saldaña, had been a prisoner in state custody for two years, and FARC sources pointed to another man, alias Marlon (still at large), as the unit’s true commander. The army admitted these facts but stressed that Saldaña was a leader who convinced the others to surrender,” said the leaked cable from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota to the U.S. Secretary of State.
According to the cable, journalists found that Saldaña was actually a FARC deserter who was “captured and imprisoned in 2004.” “To shorten his sentence he contacted Restrepo [peace commissioner at the time] offering to turn informer and bring in his comrades. His men claim to belong to a unit which they say was created (conveniently) near the time of Saldaña’s offer,” the report states.
The existence of the Cacica Gaitana front of the FARC had not been recognized by Colombian police, the departmental government, and was not recognized in any of the army’s own records of the FARC, said the report. The FARC denied the existence of the front as well.
In a demobilization ceremony described in the cable, the unit’s political leader denounced the conflict that “exhausted his country” and “converted it into a vast cemetery” but not his Leninist and Bolivarian principles.
It was reported in the cable that the demobilized guerrillas at the event “wore clean new uniforms and appeared fresh, while claiming to have hiked long distances to arrive at the site.”
Recent testimony from two imprisoned guerrillas claimed that Olivo Saldaña in conjunction with a former army general, a drug trafficker, and then-peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo, falsified the demobilization of the Cacica Gaitana front by training and arming homeless and unemployed people only to have them surrender to security forces.
These accusations are under investigation by the prosecutor general.