HomeNewsBriefColombia Unconvincingly Walks Back Controversial Military Plan

New orders from Colombia's military leadership showing a possible return to policies that previously led to a wave of extrajudicial killings has sown further discord when it comes to the future of the country's peace agreement with the FARC.

An investigation by the New York Times revealed orders by top Colombian military commanders that called for an increase in captures and deaths of criminal elements, and a possible acceptance of higher civilian casualties. The order lessened the burden on military forces to engage enemy combatants, stating that "you must launch operations with 60 to 70 percent credibility or exactitude," according to two officers interviewed by the newspaper.

The commander of the Colombian Army, Major General Nicacio Martínez Espinel, acknowledged that he gave the order and justified the measure by saying a new approach was needed due to the escalation of crime in the country.

The article sparked a prompt response from the government. The order was apparently modified a few days later, with President Iván Duque stating that there would be no tolerance for soldiers committing abuses. An internal investigation, however, was launched to discover who might have spoken with the New York Times.

SEE ALSO: Lessons for LatAm from Colombia's Extrajudicial Killings

In February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that at least nine generals in Duque's military hierarchy, including Martínez Espinel, were under investigation for human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings that took place in units under their command from 2002 to 2008.

Known as ‘falsos positivos’ (false positives), soldiers killed young Colombian men, many of them poor or mentally handicapped, and disguised their bodies as guerrillas or registered them as enemy kills. It is estimated that up to 5,000 people were killed in this way.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite the government walking back the dangerous orders, the mere existence of these orders are cause for real concern about how President Duque and his top general plan to attack irregular armed groups and other criminality.

A full accounting of the false positive killings has never occurred and several top military officials, including Martínez Espinel, have been implicated in the scandal. New Information came out recently that Martínez Espinel made payments to non-existent informants who claimed to have provided actionable information to the army in 2005. It appears two of these payments were made to a soldier who is currently serving a 40-year jail term for his role in extrajudicial executions.

Other serious accusations have fallen on retired colonel Óscar Gómez, a former commander of the 43rd infantry battalion in Vichada. On May 26, he was sentenced to over 37 years in jail for his alliance with former paramilitary leader Pedro Guerrero Castillo, alias Cuchillo, and for the murder of two civilians who were then passed off as guerrillas.

Colombia continues to face international reaction to the false positives scandal. US Congress members have written to Duque, asking him not to promote officers embroiled in false positives allegations. This includes Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Congressional Appropriations Committee, which is tasked with authorizing funds for Colombia.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of FARC Peace Process

Finally, the recent murder of a demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) fighter by an active soldier in the department of Santander has only confirmed that the government is slowly returning to its old ways.

The murder was first reported as an accident but it was later confirmed the soldiers involved tried to cover it up. And, unsurprisingly, the general in charge of the area, Diego Luis Villegas, is also under investigation for his alleged role in extrajudicial killings.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 21 MAY 2018

Colombia and Venezuela have shared criminal dynamics for decades. Colombia has pushed cocaine through Venezuela on its journey to US and European markets, while Venezuela’s contraband fuel has…

GUERREROS UNIDOS / 21 OCT 2015

A brand new theory offers an answer to the infuriating question of why a criminal group in Mexico…

HOMICIDES / 11 OCT 2016

Many deaths are unavoidable. Natural disasters and incurable illnesses can claim lives suddenly, without warning. But there is one untimely death that…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…