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Santos sacks Colombian top brass following exposure of corruption ring

Wednesday, February 19th 2014 - 04:58 UTC
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General Barrero was recorded on tape referring to prosecutors in 'disrespectful language' said Santos General Barrero was recorded on tape referring to prosecutors in 'disrespectful language' said Santos

President Juan Manuel Santos announced on Tuesday a major overhaul of Colombia's armed forces high command following revelations of corruption in military procurement.

 “We must act in a clear, forceful way against foreign enemies and internal enemies of our institutions,” the president said during a public event in the northern city of Sincelejo. “Among our internal enemies are those who get rich from corruption or allow it,” he said.

To be discharged from their positions, he said, will be the commander of the armed forces, Gen. Leonardo Barrero, and other “high officers” that feature in hundreds of hours of recorded conversations cited by newsweekly Semana in an exposure of corruption in military procurement.

The scandal centers around Col. Robinson Gonzalez del Rio, who coordinated an extensive bid-rigging scheme despite his being in an army stockade for the extrajudicial execution of two people in 2007.

In a conversation with Gonzalez del Rio prior to his appointment as armed forces chief in August 2013, Barrero used a vulgar term to refer to the prosecutors investigating the army for hundreds of extrajudicial executions.

“The commanding general of the military forces is not being removed from his rank for any case of corruption but for some disrespectful expressions that invalidate his authority before the judiciary and before the nation,” Santos said on Tuesday.

The other high officers “are out because they knew of the irregularities and did nothing,” the president said.

“It's important to get to the bottom of these matters, to cut out the problem at its root and to act with complete firmness, but also with impartiality and justice,” Santos said.

Minutes after the president spoke in Sincelejo, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon held a press conference in Bogotá to name the current army commander, Gen. Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragan, as Barrero's replacement.

Rodriguez Barragan is to be succeeded by Gen. Jaime Lasparilla, while Gen. Javier Florez becomes the new chief of the General Staff.

The commanders of the navy, Adm. Hernando Wills; air force, Gen. Guillermo Leon; and police, Gen. Rodolfo Palomino, will remain in their posts, as will the armed forces inspector-general, Vice Adm. Henry Blain.

Pinzon said that the commission studying the corruption charges will continue working with other government agencies, while the armed forces will prepare a regulatory code to ensure transparency in the military.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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  • CabezaDura2

    I don’t know if this has any political signal involved to the FARC that not even the Colombian military is immune to justice or simply this general falls now because elections are coming, however it is the right thing to do

    Feb 19th, 2014 - 06:23 pm 0
  • ilsen


    Good to see Colombia taking a good path, finally..

    Feb 21st, 2014 - 11:55 pm 0
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