from Weekly News Update on the Americas


On May 12, Colombian authorities arrested former justice minister Alberto Santofimio Botero in connection with the 1989 murder of populist Liberal Party presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan. A statement from the attorney general’s office said Santofimio was arrested in the city of Armenia, Quindio department, because of new information linking him to the Galan case. The statement gave no details.

The attorney general’s office has evidence suggesting that Santofimio ordered the Galan assassination at an August 1989 meeting with drug lords Pablo Escobar Gaviria and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha at the Alsacia estate in Venadillo municipality, Tolima department. Santofimio was detained and questioned by prosecutors about Galan’s assassination several years ago, but was released due to lack of evidence. Current president Alvaro Uribe Velez accepted significant donations for his presidential election campaign from Santofimio, though the former justice minister had already been convicted for bank fraud and for taking money from the Cali drug cartel. Uribe repaid Santofimio’s support by naming his son, Alberto Santofimio, as first secretary of the Colombian embassy in Paris, a post he still holds.

John Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, a former hit-man for Escobar, is serving a 30-year prison sentence for the murder of Galan. Soon after the killing, 11 suspects were arrested, tried and jailed–until new evidence three years later showed they were innocent. At least four other suspects in the case were assassinated, some disappeared and others reportedly underwent plastic surgery to avoid detection. Another suspect, retired army officer Carlos Humberto Flores Franco, was jailed recently and is awaiting the outcome of an investigation into allegations that he played a role in the crime. (Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, May 13 from correspondents)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 22


On May 3, Colombian authorities arrested two US soldiers at a luxury estate in Tolima department, where they were allegedly preparing to deliver 40,000 rounds of ammunition to a right-wing paramilitary group. The Colombian government turned over Warrant Officer Allan Tanquary and Sgt. Jesus Hernandez to US authorities on May 5, despite widespread demands that the soldiers face trial in Colombia.

On May 6, during a visit to Tolima, US ambassador William Wood ruled out lifting the diplomatic immunity granted to the soldiers under a 1974 treaty between the US and Colombia, though he said Colombian prosecutors would be allowed to question the two at the US embassy in Bogota in the coming days, before they are flown to the US. The Colombian attorney general’s office formally sought permission earlier on May 6 to conduct the questioning. Wood said Tanquary and Hernandez will be tried by a US military court and will be severely punished if found guilty.

The case has deeply embarrassed the US government, coming just five weeks after five US service members were detained for allegedly smuggling cocaine aboard a military aircraft to the US. The US has denied secretly helping the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), which have been blamed for countless atrocities. The US government has designated the AUC a terrorist organization. (Miami Herald, May 7 from AP)

Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 8

Weekly News Update on the Americas

See also WW4 REPORT #109


Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, May 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution