Sixteen years after the murder of journalist Jaime Garzón, a former paramilitary leader has testified that the order to kill was a conspiracy between high ranking army and police officials
On Monday August 10, just three days before the sixteenth anniversary of the murder of journalist and political satirist Jaime Garzón, former paramilitary head Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano, alias “Don Berna”, told an inquest in Miami that three high ranking army and police officers were involved in the crime.
According to the Garzón family lawyer, Luis Guillermo Pérez, “Berna” told the inquiry that retired general Mauricio Santoyo, former president Álvaro Uribe’s chief of security at the time, played a part in the murder.
He also mentioned retired General Rito Alejo del Rio, who at the time was commander of the 13th Brigade of the Army, and Colonel Jorge Eliécer Plazas Acevedo, who is on trial for the murder of Garzón.
“He (Berna) specifically mentioned General Santoyo who, he said, contributed to the extermination of the La Terraza group.
Similarly, he said that he helped to sidetrack the criminal investigation in which DAS agents also took part. They were interested in not letting the truth out and in seeking a culprit,” said Pérez in a press release.
Thirty-eight-year-old Garzón was gunned down by two hit men on a motorcycle on August 13, 1999 in Bogota.
The La Terraza group, a wing of the Medellin drug cartel, are Garzón’s alleged assassinators. The group then ‘disappeared’ not long after the killing, leading to speculation that it was an attempt to silence the Garzón crime.
His death unleashed one of the most violent and difficult periods for the press and freedom of expression in Colombia’s history.
According to information from the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), paramilitary groups killed 13 journalists between 1999 and 2002.
Since Berna’s declaration, the Attorney General’s office has opened a new line of investigation regarding the case.