Former Head of Colombian Army Denies Links to Paramilitaries

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Retired General Mario Montoya, former head of the Colombian Army, has denied having any links to the AUC, despite being implicated by former members of the illegal right wing paramilitary army.

During three hours in court, General Montoya denied accusations made by Daniel Rendon Herrera, alias “Don Mario,” that he had received some $700,000 to help one faction of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) fight another. Rendon was then part of the Centauros Bloc of the AUC, but when the peace process between the government and the AUC finished in 2006 he did not surrender himself under the Justice and Peace amnesty legislation. Instead he set up a new group, now known as the Urabeños, which he led until his capture in April 2009.

Rendon is not the only former AUC fighter to implicate Montoya. Libardo Duarte, alias “Bam-Bam,” formerly of Metro Bloc of the AUC, has also testified that the general helped this group in Antioquia. Until the AUC’s final demobilization in 2006 (30,000 fighters surrendered their weapons between 2003 and 2006), the AUC was one of the biggest drug smuggling groups in Colombia.

General Montoya was one of Colombia’s most highly decorated soldiers and played a part in the emblematic rescue of Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages from the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in July 2008. After retiring from the military, General Montoya was posted to the Colombian Embassy in Dominican Republic. He resigned that position in August 2011 as allegations began to mount up against him.

InSight Crime Analysis

InSight Crime heard other accusations of Montoya’s paramilitary links when interviewing one of the founders of the AUC, Carlos Mauricio Garcia, alias “Rodrigo 00” — a former army officer. During many interviews from 2001 until a few days before his murder in May 2004, Garcia said that he had worked for some time with General Montoya, who supportted his Metro Bloc’s fight against Marxist rebels.

Montoya allegedly supplied the paramilitaries with weapons and ammunition as well as allowing their fighters free movement through army checkpoints, particularly when Montoya commanded the 4th Brigade in Antioquia.

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