Colombia: ex-mayor guilty in 2003 murder

On Jan. 21 the Colombian Attorney General’s Office reported that Julio CĂ©sar Ardila Torres, the former mayor of Barrancabermeja, Santander department, had been found guilty of ordering the April 6, 2003 murder of local journalist JosĂ© Emeterio Rivas. Judge Nelly Vallejo Aranda sentenced Ardila to 28 years and eight months in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of 1.192 billion pesos (about $530,000). The court also convicted two former municipal employees, Fabio Pajon Lizcano and Abelardo Rueda Tobon, and sentenced them to 26 years and eight months.

Rivas was the host of a radio program that exposed links between the Barrancabermeja city government and the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). According to testimony by former paramilitary Reiner Enrique Brocate, Ardila planned the murder with paramilitary leader Pablo Emilio Quintero (“Bedoya”), who confessed in June 2007 to carrying out the actual killing. Ardila surrendered to authorities on April 30, 2008, after several years as a fugitive. “Here everybody knew that [Ardila] had ordered JosĂ© Emeterio killed,” a co-worker of Rivas’ said after the sentencing. “What surprised us was that they convicted him.” (Semana, Colombia, Jan. 22, some information from FundaciĂłn para la Libertad de Prensa-FLIP; Latin American Herald Tribune, Jan. 22)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 25

See our last posts on Colombia and the paramilitaries.