Colombia’s army chief sacked in brutal hazing ritual

Hey, its all just good, clean fun compared to what they do to the civilian population. From Mercopress, Feb. 21:

Colombian Army “basic training” exercises for recruits that involved scorching with a branding iron, beatings, near-drowning and sexual abuses ended Tuesday with the sacking of the commander of the force.

Army chief General Reynaldo Castellanos was sent into early retirement following an overnight meeting among President Alvaro Uribe, Defence Minister Camilo Ospina and the top brass of the Colombian Armed Forces.

General Mario Montoya, until now head of the Santa Marta-based Joint Command of the Caribbean Region, was named to replace Castellanos, according to an official release.

The axe fell only hours after president Uribe harshly criticized both the torment of the recruits and the delay by higher ranking officers of revealing the abuse. At least two officers, two non-commissioned officers and an enlisted service man are under investigation in connection with the torture of 21 Army recruits who failed a training exercise.

The breaking news splashed in Colombian media with full colour pictures, shocking public opinion and forcing immediate reaction in spite of an initial attempt to cove up the whole incident.

Apparently the abuses occurred in late January at the Piedras military training base in the province of Tolima and were first reported by the weekly news magazine Semana. The magazine’s report detailed the torment of recruits at the base, one of the army’s elite training facilities, and Colombian television broadcast images of the troopers abused by superiors for failing the “escape and evasion” test on January 25.

El Tiempo newspaper’s online edition reported that 18 soldiers had their chests burned with a cattle-branding iron and suffered second- and third-degree burns.

Caracol Noticias, meanwhile, reported that several soldiers said they were tape blinded and later beaten, scolded and dumped in a river by their officers. Several of the young men also claimed they were sexually abused at the base.

A furious president Uribe said Monday that he deplored the fact that senior officers “had delayed in informing public opinion of what happened there” noting that the generals first told him about the matter only two days earlier.

“I regret that in our Army, at a crucial moment in the history of security for Colombia, an abuse case of this kind has occurred” said Uribe.

See our last post on Colombia.