BOGOTA – Freddy Rendon, erstwhile commander of a bloc of the now-defunct AUC militia federation, said in a deposition that he always felt like just another member of Colombia’s security forces.
According to media reports published Friday in Medellin, Rendon told a prosecutor in that northwestern city that during his time in the armed struggle he never had a problem at military or police checkpoints.
The ex-militiaman said he “never felt pursued by either the army or the police or any other state institution,” El Colombiano newspaper reported in reference to Thursday’s deposition.
“He even stated that every time he arrived at a military checkpoint he was like just another soldier or police officer.”
Rendon made the statement to a prosecutor from a unit established to investigate and try demobilized former members of the AUC, more than 31,000 of whose fighters handed in their weapons between the end of 2003 and mid-2006 as part of the peace process with conservative President Alvaro Uribe’s administration.
The demobilization was accompanied by a law offering reduced penalties for militiamen who confess to their crimes – the AUC killed at least 10,000 people – and make restitution to victims.
Some 650 of the demobilized militiamen belonged to the Elmer Cardenas Bloc, a unit that took orders from Rendon and until August 2006 was active in the jungles straddling the border between the northwestern provinces of Antioquia and Choco.
In addition to hundreds of murders, the bloc is accused of carrying out large-scale forced displacements of the indigenous population and usurping their land for the benefit of companies that set up large palm oil plantations in the region.
The AUC originated from militias formed by wealthy landowners to battle leftist rebels, but by the time it formally disbanded in 2006 the group was essentially a drug-running, crime syndicate with political pretensions.
The United Nations blames the paramilitaries for 80 percent of the war crimes in Colombia’s decades-old internal conflict. EFE