Colombia General Heading Urabeños’ Manhunt Under Investigation

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The police general heading the mass manhunt for Colombia’s most wanted drug trafficker is under investigation over accusations of criminal ties, raising concerns that top level corruption continues among the country’s security forces.

General Luis Eduardo Martinez is facing four investigations by Colombia’s Inspector General’s office, and a further preliminary investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office due to repeated allegations he maintained ties with drug traffickers and paramilitary groups, reported El Colombiano.

Martinez is accused of having connections to an array of underworld actors, including the Medellin mafia known as the Oficina de Envigado and the Sinaloa Cartel linked Cifuentes Villa crime clan. 

In the past, he has been denounced by numerous high-level criminals and paramilitaries, including General Mauricio Santoyo — the chief of security under former President Alvaro Uribe who was extradited to the United States in 2012 on drug trafficking charges — and ex-paramilitary leader Carlos Mario Jimenez, alias “Macaco.”

Martinez, who denies all wrongdoing, has produced a letter from prosecutors saying he is not under any investigation resulting from paramilitary testimonies and says the current investigations were the result of his own requests that the authorities clear his name following accusations lodged by an unnamed party, reported Vanguardia. 

The controversy over the allegations against Martinez resurfaced due to a recent Senate hearing to discuss his possible promotion to Major General and those supporting his promotion say the allegations are part of smear campaign against him. Martinez is currently in charge of the search for Dario Antonio Usuga, alias “Otoniel,” the leader of Colombia’s most powerful criminal organization, the Urabeños. The manhunt is Colombia’s largest since the search for Pablo Escobar.

InSight Crime Analysis

In recent decades, the collusion of top-level Colombian security officials with organized crime and right-wing paramilitary groups has been common — as evidenced by the case of one of Martinez’s accusers, Mauricio Santoyo.

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However, Colombia has made strides towards cleaning up its security institutions, and officials now often give the impression corruption is mainly relegated to low-level officers and staff. Nonetheless, instances of high-level involvement in drug schemes do continue to surface, if more sporadically.

The allegations against Martinez therefore raise questions over whether top officials in Colombia’s security forces continue to maintain criminal links. While the claims remain far from proven, if true, the fall of an official as highly-decorated as Martinez — and one in charge of such a major operation as the search for Otoniel — would be a major setback and embarrassment for the country’s security institutions.

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