Just one week after his inauguration, Colombian President Gustavo Petro sent 52 generals into retirement. The biggest sweep in Colombia's history is aimed at putting together a corruption-free brass.
Most of the generals sent home stemmed from the Police (24), followed by the Army (16) plus 6 others from the Air Force and other 6 Navy Admirals, it was reported.
There was only one active major general in the Police (Henry Armando Sanabria Cely), who was subsequently appointed director of the force. The rest have less than one year's experience in those positions.
Petro had already warned as a candidate that he was going to look for new leadership among the younger ones. And since he appointed Ivàn Velásquez as Defense Minister it was obvious to local analysts that anyone remotely linked to any irregularity would be passed over. It is common practice that whenever a junior officer is promoted over others, the latter must step aside.
In order for General Sanabria Cely to reach the top, 10 generals senior to him were passed over, but then again to appoint Brigadier General Jackeline Navarro Ordóñez as the second-ever woman to become deputy director other 12 generals had to go. Police matters analysts also noticed that none of the generals left had specialized in intelligence matters.
To understand the dimension of the sweep, it is worth remembering that the occasion in which more generals had left to make way for a new director was
When Álvaro Uribe took office as President, with Juan Manuel Santos as Defense Minister, they chose General Oscar Naranjo as Police Director, sweeping only 12 generals. In 1993 General Rosso José Serrano became Police Director sacking 10,000 officers, with not too many generals among them.
All Military Forces will be under the command of General Helder Fernan Giraldo Bonilla; General Luis Mauricio Ospina Gutiérrez will head the Army; General Luis Carlos Córdoba Avendaño will be Air Force Chief and Vice Admiral Francisco Hernando Cubides Granados will lead the Navy.
They have all been instructed to enforce a zero corruption policy as they all report to Velásquez, a law scholar who specialized in corruption.
The new chiefs have a second principle to abide by: zero violations of Human Rights.
Here we do not look at political thoughts or anything like that, we are interested in this Public Force being professional in every sense of the word. We want a policy of dignification and improvement of the quality of life of soldiers and police officers, Petro said as he brought back his proposal to eliminate barriers between officers and non-commissioned officers so that after reaching Sergeant-Major the latter can keep getting promoted.
Petro wants a more democratic Public Force in which merit is the only criterion for promotion.
The shake-up came by surprisingly soon. Former President Iván Duque took four months to make the first changes after taking office. The basic requirement to stay active was not to be the subject of any ongoing investigation.