Colombia: Former General Santoyo Admits Ties to Paramilitary Group

On August 20, 2012, retired general Mauricio Santoyo, former security chief for ex-president Álvaro Uribe, pled guilty to having helped the paramilitary organization United Self-Defense of Colombia (Spanish acronym AUC). Santoyo entered his plea before the Eastern District Court of Virginia in the United States, where he has been extradited for ties to drug trafficking. His admission has created a political scandal in Colombia.

Santoyo had also served as commander of GAULA (Unified Action Groups for Personal Liberty) in Medellín, and he carried the rank of colonel when Álvaro Uribe was governor of Antioquia. The Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez later dismissed Santoyo from office for forging the signatures of prosecutors on requests to judges for wiretaps. However, Santoyo was reinstated to his position after an appeal to the State Council, and in 2007, Congress promoted him to general.

Consequently, Uribe has been questioned [es] by leftist political groups and by several journalists, who accuse him of having a hand in the promotion of Santoyo to general. Ex-president Uribe, however, maintains his ignorance about any ties between the former official and paramilitary groups, and denies having influenced his political appointments or promotions. Furthermore, Uribe's attorney sent a letter to the United States ambassador in Colombia, Michael McKinley, trying to clean up the former president's image and requesting that Santoyo be asked if at any time he had told Uribe about the activities he had admitted to in court.

In his blog Vórtice Virtual, Carlos Arturo Gamboa points to [es] Uribe's responsibility, quoting Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo:

Cartoon, “General Mauricio Santoyo's new medal” by Don Átomo, Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

“(…) es clarísimo que si el Coronel Santoyo no hubiera, no hubiera pertenecido al círculo de íntimos del Presidente de la República, no hubiera sido su jefe de seguridad en la Casa de Nariño, esta situación que hoy estamos discutiendo aquí no se hubiera dado, luego por donde uno lo mire repito Senadores y Senadoras de Colombia lo digo con toda franqueza y con todo dolor, hay días como este en que yo me avergüenzo de ser Senador de la República, muchas gracias”

(…) it's extremely clear that had Col. Santoyo not, had not been a part of the President's inner circle, hadn't been the chief of security at the presidential palace, the situation we're discussing today wouldn't have happened, wherever one looks, I repeat, Senators of Colombia, I say with complete honesty and much pain, there are days like this when I'm embarrassed to be a Senator of this Republic, thank you”

Carlos later makes a call for reflection and concludes:

Nuestra última década sólo es comparable con las dictaduras de todos los pelambres que padeció Latinoamérica, sólo que con más víctimas; y parece que el dolor se anidó en el alma social y nos negamos a ver el drama de sangre y miseria que nos rodea. […]

Sólo existe una forma de reparar el genocidio que nos precede y es la verdad. Sólo así nuestras víctimas podrán ser lloradas y el pueblo aprenderá a nunca más tener los ojos cerrados.

Our past decade is matched only by the dictatorships Latin America suffered under, only with more victims; and it seems the pain has settled in our collective soul and we refuse to see the drama of blood and misery that surrounds us. […]

There is only one form of reparation for the genocide that precedes us and that is the truth. Only then may our victims be mourned and the people will learn to never again close their eyes.

On Twitter, J.Andrés‏ (@JAIM3_ANDR3S) [es] notes the request [es] by Representative Iván Cepeda Castro:

@JAIM3_ANDR3S:  El representante Iván Cepeda Castro pidió que sea investigado el Ex presidente Álvaro Uribe Vélez por el caso del general Mauricio Santoyo.

@JAIM3_ANDR3S [es]: Representative Iván Cepeda Castro asked that former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez be investigated regarding the case of Santoyo.

Meanwhile, Jaime Eduardo Arango‏ (@jaimearango9) [es] takes a stand for Uribe:

@jaimearango9: Osorio.Royne.Santoyo.16 años de infiltración de la mafia en la Presidencia y ahora resulta que es culpa de Uribe.

@jaimearango9 [es]: Osorio. Royne. Santoyo. 16 years of infiltration by the mafia in the Presidency and now it's all Uribe's fault.

However, there has also been an attempt to tie [es] to Santoyo other politicians who worked in Uribe's government and who could also have had knowledge of Santoyo's movements. Among those are the former Minister of Defense and current president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos; the former peace commissioner and and now fugitive from justice, Luis Carlos Restrepo; and the former national chief of police Óscar Naranjo. But those implicated from his government, and other politicians allied with Uribe, have denied any involvement with the Santoyo matter. 

These attempts to disassociate themselves from Santoyo have not convinced everybody. Like many Twitter users, Wilman R. G. (‏@wilmang42) [es] shares a link showing the Senate vote on Santoyo's promotion:

@wilmanga42:  Vea aquí a los senadores que ascendieron a General Santoyo y a los pocos que lo calificaron de vergüenza.

@wilmanga42 [es]: See here the senators who promoted General Santoyo and the few who called him a disgrace. [es]

For her part, the journalist Irma Londono (@irmalon) [es] writes:

@irmalon: Lamentable caso de general #Santoyo, esto habla muy mal del sistema de justicia colombiana: Consejo d Estado #Colombia

@irmalon [es]: The regrettable case of General Santoyo, this speaks badly of Colombian justice: the State Council #Colombia

Attorney Andres Barreto G. (@andresbarretog) [es] opines:

@andresbarretog: El caso Santoyo nos deja como lo que somos en el plano exterior: una republiqueta, con militares corruptos y sin aparato judicial seriom [sic]

@andresbarretog [es]: The Santoyo case shows us how we're seen abroad: a republiqueta [translator's note: a country run by a despot or with limited transparency] with a corrupt military and without any serious judicial mechanism.

And Natalia Guerrero (@nnguerrero) [es] adds:

@nnguerrero: El peor escándalo de la historia de Colombia no es la confesión de Santoyo. El escándalo es que no caiga nadie más. Es que ni una renuncia..

@nnguerrero [es]: The worst scandal in the history of Colombia is not Santoyo's confession. The scandal is that nobody else is going down. Not even one resignation…

1 comment

  • […] Colombia: Former General Santoyo Admits Ties to Paramilitary Group, Lully Posada (Español aquí), English translation by Betsy Galbreath: Retired general Mauricio Santoyo, former chief of security under ex-president Álvaro Uribe, pled guilty to having helped the paramilitary organization United Self-Defense of Colombia (AUC in Spanish). His confession has created a political scandal in Colombia. – El general retirado Mauricio Santoyo, ex jefe de Seguridad bajo el antiguo presidente Álvaro Uribe, se declaró culpable de haber ayudado a la organización paramilitar Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). Su declaración ha generado un escándalo político en el país. […]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.