Cover-up could bring down Colombia’s defense chief

Opposition lawmakers could hold no confidence vote against Guillermo Botero for second time this year

Santiago Serna Duque   | 06.11.2019
Cover-up could bring down Colombia’s defense chief

BOGOTA, Colombia 

Colombian Defense Minister Guillermo Botero held a news conference Wednesday to defend himself against allegations of a military cover-up involving seven children, and a possible no confidence vote in Congress.

The move comes after a congressional session Tuesday where Senator Roy Barreras, from the Social Party of National Unity, presented a report that revealed during a bombing campaign against Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident “Gildardo Cucho," in August, seven children were killed.

Barreras asserted that Botero hid the information and, as a consequence, he should step down.

“Abimiller Morales, who was 17 years old; Willmer Castro, 17; Diana Medina, 16; Jose Rojas Andrade, 15; Jhon Edinson Pinzon, 17; the girl Angela Maria Gaitan, who was 12 years old; and Sandra Patricia Vargas, 16” died, said Barreras.

Botero said the session was a “political debate filled with inaccuracies and half-truths. Beyond the political situation, what must count are the legal and legitimate instruments to combat these threats.”

“The judicial authorities are the ones that are competent to take action, according the results of technical-scientific tests, circumstances of occurrence of the facts and the alleged responsibility of the public force members,” he added.

Botero was backed up by the Commander of the Military Forces of Colombia Luis Fernando Navarro who said the operation “was legitimate” and in compliance with international law.

The military target was never children, as offices were not even aware of their presence in the guerrilla camp, he said. “It was an operation against aka “Cucho.”

By the end of October, congressmen and human rights organizations had already requested Botero’s dismissal and that of Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez, for an indigenous massacre that took place in the municipality of Tacueyo, in northern Cauca Department.

It is the second motion of no confidence that Botero faces.

The first was promoted by sectors of the opposition to the government of President Ivan Duque earlier this year.

They argued that Botero had conflicts of interest while running the defense office while he appeared on the board of directors of a private security company.

The initiative failed to be approved in the Chamber of Representatives after 20 congressmen voted in favor of the motion against 121 votes that opposed the move.

*Daniela Mendoza contributed to this note.

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