US prosecutors have charged retired Colombian police General Mauricio Santoyo with drug trafficking with alleged ties to cartels and paramilitary groups, highlighting the depth of corruption in the country's national police.
On June 15, prosecutors from Virginia’s State District Court accused retired police General Mauricio Santoyo, along with other former police officials, of collaborating with drug traffickers and paramilitaries. Santoyo was the chief of security for then-President Alvaro Uribe from 2002 to 2006.
Virginia district state prosecutor Neil MacBride alleges that Santoyo obtained intelligence through illegal wiretaps, and passed it on to the Oficina de Envigado crime syndicate to be used to assassinate competitors. The charges also allege that Santoyo accepted bribes from paramilitary organization the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) to facilitate drug shipments to the United States.
InSight Crime Analysis
The charges follow allegations of police corruption made by Colombian criminals extradited to the US, including drug trafficker Hernando Bustamante and AUC paramilitary leaders Salvatore Mancuso and Carlos Mario Jimenez, alias "Macaco."
Bustamante, extradited in 2007, has insisted that top police officials, including Santoyo, accepted bribes from the Norte del Valle Cartel. Considering that Bustamante has been in the US for the last five years, his allegation concerning Santoyo could cover the period the general worked under Uribe and could extend into the time he was commander of the anti-kidnapping task force in Medellin (1996-1999).
Since 2010 Mancuso and Jimenez have both admitted to bribing unnamed top officials in the national police. This indicates the widespread influence of AUC among top police officials, giving weight to the Virginia District Court’s charges against Santoyo.
The allegations demonstrate the extent of corruption in the police force, but also suggest another indirect link between Uribe and the drug trade. Uribe has already been connected to drug traffickers through his niece, Ana Maria Uribe Cifuentes, who was arrested with her mother in 2011 for allegedly helping Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel traffic cocaine and launder their profits. Uribe has done his best to separate himself from the case, but charges against his former security chief will further damage the former president’s reputation.