A former intelligence head of the Colombian Army has been given a 13-year prison sentence for his role in drug trafficking, highlighting the close ties between organized crime and elements in the country’s military.
Pauselino Latorre, who headed the army’s 17th Brigade and then served as intelligence chief before his retirement in 2005, was convicted of money laundering and aggravated conspiracy.
Latorre was arrested in 2008 along with 23 others, following a two-year joint operation between Colombian and US law enforcement agencies.
At his trial, prosecutors presented thousands of intercepted phone calls between the group, which prosecutors said showed that Latorre acted as an advisor and frontman for drug trafficker Carlos Aguirre Babativa, alias “El Señor,” who worked for now-captured capo Daniel “El Loco” Barrera. El Señor, who was extradited to the United States in 2009, ran trafficking operations in the south of the province of Bolivar and near the border with Venezuela.
According to investigators, the former general helped El Señor set up legal front businesses to launder drug profits.
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The 17th Brigade, which is stationed in Uraba, an important drug shipment point on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, has a long history of colluding with paramilitary groups. Communities living in the 17th Brigade’s territory have complained that the military in the region allow criminal groups to plant coca and move precursor chemicals into the region and processed cocaine out.
Latorre’s case provides another example of high-level corruption in the Colombian security forces, coming after police General Mauricio Santoyo, who was former President Alvaro Uribe’s security chief admitted collaborating with paramilitary groups.
The former general’s conviction in September set a precedent for Colombia dealing with these corruption cases, as he was the first soldier of his rank to be convicted for drug trafficking, according to Semana.