Colombia Armed Forces Boss Dismissed Over ‘Disrespectful Remarks’
Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has dismissed the chief of the armed forces over disparaging comments about inquiries into extrajudicial killings.
Mr Santos said General Leonardo Barrero had been sacked for “disrespectful remarks” that emerged as part of an investigation into allegedly corrupt procurement deals by the military.
The allegations were published by the Colombian weekly magazine Semana.
Another four generals were dismissed over alleged wrongdoing in contracts.
Gen Barrero’s remarks were caught on secretly recorded phone conversations made while investigators looked into the corruption allegations.
‘Like a mafia’
President Santos stressed that Gen Barrero was being sacked for his comments about the inquiries into the extrajudicial killings known as “false positives” – thousands of murdered civilians who were passed off by the military as rebels killed in combat.
“The commander of the armed forces is not leaving for any corruption deeds but for his disrespectful remarks about the judiciary,” Mr Santos said, adding that the other officers “knew about the irregularities and did not act”.
On the recorded audio, Gen Barrero can be heard telling an imprisoned colonel that officers should join forces “like a mafia” against investigating judges.
The Semana report suggests that part of the money was channelled to officers with suspected links with extrajudicial killings.
The conversation that cost Gen Barrero his job was with an officer investigated for possible involvement in “false positive” cases.
Gen Barrero is being replaced by the head of the army, General Juan Pablo Rodriguez.
Some generals and other senior officers are accused of taking bribes of up to 50% of the contracts they awarded; others of diverting money that was meant to be spent at the barracks on petrol and other supplies.
The defence budget has soared in recent years and the US continues to pay Colombia a generous annual allowance to wage war on drugs.
The irregularities allegedly took place in 2012 and 2013.
Two weeks ago, Semana published another set of potentially damaging allegations involving the Colombian army.
It said that an elite military group had spied on government officials engaged in peace negotiations in Cuba with Farc rebels.
Mr Santos dismissed the army’s intelligence unit. The army said the group had been set up legally and had not performed illicit activities.