Families of dozens of Medellin citizens who were either killed or disappeared in a 2002 military operation in the city demand former President Alvaro Uribe asks forgiveness for ordering the operation.
The operation in Medellin’s western 13th District called “Operation Orion” was carried out by the military, the police and, according to the locals, members of the paramilitary organization AUC.
The military attack on one of Medellin’s most densely populated districts sought to oust leftist militias left 200 civilians injured, six dead and many dozens disappeared and, according to witnesses and former paramilitaries, was carried out in coordination with AUC fighters.
Uribe, who could face war crime allegations over the controversial military incursion in Colombia’s second largest city, received major criticism from the victims, particularly over his successful attempt to sink a signed peace deal with the FARC in an October 2 referendum.
For 14 years we have demanded truth, justice and reparation, but what we got was justifications, impunity and persecution. Because of this, we firmly state today: Mr. Alvaro Uribe, … you do not represent us, to the contrary, and we demand that you too commit to tell the truth, admit responsibility and commit to respect the rights of the victims.
Operation Orion is one of multiple military operations that were carried out on Uribe’s orders, allegedly with the help of paramilitary forces.
The self-defense forces of the [AUC group] BCN arrived in the 13th District as part of the alliance with the 4th Brigade of the army, including Generals Mario Montoya of the army and Leonardo Gallego of the police.
The operation, one of several controversial urban military incursions in Medellin, left the district free of militias loyal to leftist rebel group FARC, but effectively consolidated the power of “Don Berna” in the city.
Against court orders, Uribe extradited Berna in 2008 after paramilitary fighters and commanders began revealing their extensive ties with the military, congress and the Uribe administration.
Since then, more than 50 congressmen have been imprisoned for using the paramilitary death squads to get elected in the 2002 and 2006 elections, a scandal that was dubbed “parapolitics.”
According to extradited AUC chief Salvatore Mancuso and other former AUC members, the paramilitaries also provided logistical and financial support to Uribe’s 2002 election and his 2006 re-election.
The AUC partially demobilized between 2003 and 2006, but successor groups re-emerged in 2008 citing the demobilization of their leadership and the mass assassination of demobilized paramilitary fighters as reasons to rearm.
Medellin’s 13th District is currently controlled by urban militias loyal to the AGC, the largest of the groups that formed from the AUC.