A former chief of Colombia’s military intelligence is awaiting a verdict in his money laundering trial, a reminder, amid the furor over a former Colombian police general on trial in the US for aiding paramilitaries, that the upper ranks of both the police and military have been co-opted by drug trafficking groups.
Retired general Pauselino Latorre is charged with laundering up to $2 million in cash for a drug trafficking ring, reported El Tiempo. The trial ended Aug. 22. Latorre commanded a military brigade based in a key strategic territory for drug traffickers, the Uraba coast then served as the director of military intelligence before retiring.
When Latorre was arrested in January 2008 along with another 21 suspects accused of drug trafficking, the scandal caused a widespread outcry in Colombia. Latorre was accused of collaborating with drug trafficker Carlos Aguirre Babativa, alias “El Señor,” who is believed to have once worked with one of Colombia’s most wanted drug lords, Daniel Barrera, alias “El Loco.”
According to prosecutors, Latorre helped set up a construction business and a private security firm in Bogota in order to disguise the profits from Aguirre’s drug trafficking operations.
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The evidence against Latorre is substantial, and he will likely receive the maximum prison sentence of 15 years in order to serve as an example of the Colombian justice system coming down hard against corrupt security officials. Prior to Latorre’s arrest, prosecutors recorded 3,500 phone conversations during the 18-month investigation into Aguirre’s drug trafficking ring. Latorre appeared in several of these recordings discussing payments with Aguirre.
At the time, Latorre’s arrest was considered a shocking example of the corruptive power wielded by drug trafficking organizations. But the recent case of Mauricio Santoyo, the head of former president Alvaro Uribe’s security ring who pleaded guitly to aiding the now demobilized paramilitary group the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), came as another jarring reminder that high-ranking officials in both the police and military have become willing collaborators for organized crime.
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