Open Letter to Plazas Vega


Dear Mr Plazas,


I write to you in my capacity as a journalist specialising in human rights issues in our country in the hope that you may be able to answer a few questions for me regarding your past activities. To save you time I have tried to make my questions as brief as possible:


1. Were you given any training in respect for human rights whilst you attended the US Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas between 1983 and 1984?


2. On April 4th 1995 you were appointed honorary consul in the city of Hamburg in Germany. Is it true that the German government protested your appointment because of your past human rights violations and that this forced the Colombian authorities to withdraw you from Germany? Is it also true that a German government spokesman described you as “not the sort of person that any civilised government would want to have a relationship with”?


3. In late June 1995 it was announced that you were to become Colombian consul in San Francisco. Is it true that in early September that year the US State Department refused to grant you a visa due to your past activities working with drugs traffickers and paramilitary death squads and that you were therefore unable to take up the post?


4. For what reason would the US-based NGO ‘Colombia Support Network’ describe you as “one of Colombia’s worst human rights violators”?


Are any of the above related to the following five facts?


1. Two investigations (one by the Judge of the 1st Superior Court in the city of Villavicencio and another by the Attorney General of Colombia) concerning numerous assassinations of members of the political opposition between 1980 and 1982 by the death squad known as MAS say that you were directly responsible for the creation and leadership of this paramilitary group.


2. The Colombian Administrative Department of Security (DAS) have testimony showing that in 1985 you set up and directed a death squad in the northwest region of the department of Cundinamarca with the help of the narcotics trafficker Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha (alias “El Mejicano”) – the military head of the famous Medellin cocaine cartel.


3. You have been accused of ordering the assassination of various Colombian Supreme Court judges at the Palace of Justice in Bogotá on November 6th and 7th 1985.


4. On November 7th you gave a direct verbal order to men under your command (in a radio conversation that was recorded and in which you used the codename “Arcano 5”) to disappear student activist Irma Franco Pineda.


5. On August 15th 1986 you gave another direct order to men under your command to raid the home of Alvaro Falla at Calle 67 No. 48-60 in Bogotá. Your men detained Mr Falla and he has never been seen again.


Although, for fear of not receiving a reply, I would not normally go to the trouble of asking a person such as yourself these questions I thought that I would make an exception due to the fact that our newly elected president Álvaro Uribe Vélez has just appointed you as Director of the Confiscated Assets Agency (Dirección Nacional de Estupefacientes). As this position holds such a high level of responsibility I hope that you will understand the need to reply truthfully to these questions.


I am particularly interested, given the testimony that the DAS has showing your close connection with Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, in your relationship to any other senior drug traffickers. As your new job involves the administration of the confiscated assets of narcotics traffickers, I fear that there may be a conflict of interest here.


It is also worrying that despite the fact that you seem to be considered a paramilitary death squad leader by such a wide variety of different sources that you were still appointed to a leadership position by Álvaro Uribe Vélez.


Regards,


Alfredo Castro,
August 15th. 2002


News Agency New Colombia


 


BACKGROUND


Newly elected Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez was openly supported by Colombia’s notorious paramilitary death squads throughout his recent election campaign. It has been documented that in at least six departments in which the paramilitaries are strong the death squads told large numbers of voters that they would be executed if they did not vote for Uribe. It now seems that Uribe is returning the favour by appointing notorious paramilitary figures to senior positions in the Colombian government.


Other similar appointments made by Uribe Velez in the past week include:


Ricardo Cifuentes to head the Colombian penal system known as INPEC.
A 1996 report into death squad activity in the northern Magdalena region by Washington-based Human Rights Watch implicates Cifuentes, who was the commander of the 5th Brigade of the Colombian army. According to the allegations Cifuentes was instrumental in covering up the massive and systematic violations of human rights perpetrated by the paramilitaries in the region and protected army personnel that directed these death squads.


Carlos Alberto Ospina to head the Colombian army.
According to the Human Rights Watch report of February 2000, Ospina commanded the 4th Brigade at a time when there was “extensive evidence of pervasive ties” between that brigade and various paramilitary death squads. Among the many violations of human rights that Ospina is directly responsible for are the October 1997 El Aro massacre of 11 civilians, the forced disappearance of 30 other people and an operation in April 1998 in which numerous unarmed peasant farmers were assassinated in San Rafael municipality of Antioquia department.

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