Colombia this week
Priests contracted assassins in suicide pact, Luis Carlos Restrepo attacks the Santos government and Salvatore Mancuso admits responsibility in Mapiripán massacre.
Priests contracted assassins in suicide pact
In early 2011 the Colombian press reported the murder of two Catholic Priests, Rafael Reátiga and Richard Piffano, who had been killed by armed assassins in a neighbourhood in the West of Bogotá. Their bodies were discovered in a car, with bullet wounds, with the priests as victims of, what seemed to police, a violent attack.
The murder sent shockwaves through Colombia, with the Colombian Episcopal Conference denouncing the crime and calling for justice, in the context of a country in which 74 priests have been assassinated since 1984.
However, this week, after a year long investigation, prosecutors stated that the priests had in fact made a death pact and paid gang-members a sum of around $8,000 to kill them. The priests, both of whom worked in parishes in the south of Bogotá, had been close friends and seemed to have made the suicide pact because Reátigo had contracted AIDS and health had been deteriorating.
Isidro Castiblanco, a known criminal, had been accused of the murder but has pleaded not guilty to homicide, claiming that he had been contracted by the priests. The Office of the Public Prosecutor is still searching for two other supposed assassins.
Richard Pifano’s sister, Fabiola Píffano, has rejected the result of the investigation, declaring the decision ‘slanderous.’
Luis Carlos Restrepo attacks the Santos government
In a statement published this week, the former Colombian Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo – who has fled Colombia to avoid facing charges for the false demobilization of FARC front ‘Cacica la gaitana’ – has attacked the government of Juan Manuel Santos.
The statement, published via former presidential adviser to Uribe José Obdulio Gaviria’s Twitter account, declared that Uribismo had been mistaken in electing Santos as candidate, and that he must be prevented from running for re-election in 2014.
‘Although we won the election we lost the government,’ Restrepo argued, calling for the formation of a National Constituent Assembly and for Uribismo to retake power for another 8 years. Álvaro Uribe, and the political movement around him, governed Colombia between 2002 and 2010.
Restrepo’s statement was received with surprise by Colombian politicians and journalists because its tone, speaking of Restrepo as a clandestine ‘political rebel‘ and was rejected by the majority of politicians, allied to Santos’ ruling coalition. Many view Restrepo’s actions as a means of diverting attention away from the charges against him, which include fraud, conspiracy and illegal arms trafficking.
Ex-president Uribe has given his support to Restrepo’s decision to flee Colombia, stating that if ‘Restrepo or any one of my colleagues feels persecuted in Colombia they should seek legal measures such as asylum.’
Many of Uribe’s closest aides are now facing criminal charges and claim to be victims of political persecution.
Salvatore Mancuso admits responsibility in Mapiripán massacre
The Office of the Public Prosecutor has declared that the testimony of the ex-leader of the paramilitary umbrella organization (AUC) Salvatore Mancuso is key evidence in proving the responsibility of Restrepo in the case of the false demobilization.
In a declaration made last December, Mancuso stated that the supposed demobilization of the FARC front was done in the context of widespread national and international pressure of why the Uribe government has only initiated demobilization processes with paramilitary groups.
The former paramilitary leader, who since 2008 has been held in a prison in the US, accepted responsibility this week in planning the massacre in Mapiripán, Meta in 1997 in which paramilitary forces killed an unknown number of victims. In the three hour hearing, to which Mancuso participated by video conference, the former leader also asked forgiveness for his actions in the massacre when confronted by the wife of one of the victims.