Witness testimony implicates a recently captured emerald baron in the planning of a daring bomb attack against a competitor in Colombia's capital city, another sign of how deeply enmeshed the underworld is in the country's lucrative mining industry.
During a recent court hearing, Carlos Arturo Álvarez Montero said he was approached by Horacio Triana, an emerald czar arrested earlier this month, to plant a bomb in a Bogota building, El Tiempo reported. Triana planned for the bomb to go off in the personal elevator of Hernando Sánchez, another prominent emerald trader formerly aligned with Victor Carranza. Prior to his death in April 2013, Carranza was the most powerful figure in Colombia's emerald business.
Triana is believed to have ordered the October 2012 attack against Sánchez in an upscale part of Bogota known as the Zona T. Sánchez was shot 11 times by a would-be assassin but somehow managed to survive after undergoing over a dozen operations and spending two months in a coma.
Álvarez Montero testified that Triana first contacted him in December 2012, just a few months after the initial attack. The witness said he refused the offer, although he admitted the two sides met again in May 2013.
According to El Tiempo, Álvarez Montero is a former hitman who in the 1980s worked for Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, alias "El Mexicano," the right-hand man to notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar.
InSight Crime Analysis
For decades criminal groups have been drawn to Colombia's emerald industry, as it is loosely regulated by the state and provides a convenient way to launder drug money. In fact, in the 1980s Álvarez Montero's old boss, El Mexicano, attempted to push Carranza out the emerald business, igniting a conflict that became known as the Emerald War and left some 6,000 people dead.
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Carranza and a Catholic priest helped broker a peace accord in the early 1990s, but since the emerald czar's death in 2013 there have been signs the new leaders of the industry are no longer abiding by the old rules. Pedro Rincon, who became perhaps the most important figure in the emerald industry after Carranza's passing, was the object of a grenade attack in November 2013. Several other important players have been gunned down by armed rivals.
The ongoing violence is a sign the industry remains infiltrated by criminal interests and out of the state's control. The original emerald czar is lone gone, but the government has yet to wrest control over the industry from the remaining barons.