Colombia: ex-lawmaker guilty in Segovia massacre

Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice on March 7 found former lawmaker César Pérez García guilty of being complicit in the November 1988 massacre at the village of Segoiva, Antioquia department. He now awaits sentencing, and may face 30 years in prison. Pérez García was named by a liuetenant of notorious paramilitary commander “el Negro Vladimir” as having financed the massacre to eliminate a stronghold of support for the electoral left.

“He [Pérez] asked Henry de Jesús Pérez and Fidel Castaño to remove the leftists from Segovia, a municipality where the majority supported the Unión Patriótica, so he could have absolute political control over the region,” Vladimir said. Fidel Castaño, missing and presumed dead, was the brother of Colombia’s top paramilitary commander, the late Carlos Castaño.

The massacre came after the leftist Unión Patriótica won elections in Segovia earler in 1988, threatening the support base of Pérez, regional boss of the Liberal Party, a pillar of Colombia’s political establishment. An investigation was only opened in 2010, when Pérez was arrested. (UPI, March 7; El Espectador, Colprensa, March 6)

On the evening of Nov. 11, 1988, members of the paramilitary group Death to Northeastern Revolutionaries (MRD) entered the village of 20,000 in trucks, opened fire and threw grenades indiscriminately, killing 43 people, including three children, and wounding over 50 others. The National Police and military maintained a garrison in the village, but did not intervene for over an hour, and facilitated the arrival of the paramilitary forces by removing the checkpoints normally stationed on the road into town. When the paras finally fled, no attempt was made to pursue them.

The Segovia massacre falls outside the authority of the International Criminal Court (ICC), as it can only try genocide and crimes against humanity cases that have occurred after 2002 (when the court was created) and war crimes that have taken place after 2009 (when Colombia formally joined). (Colombia Reports, Nov. 13, 2009; SOA Watch)

Colombia currently faces an ICC investigation over the “false positives” scandal.