Bogotá, Colombia, Nov 2, 2003 / 22:00 pm
After recent investigations including statements by three eye-witnesses, the Colombian Attorney General has named Pablo Catatumbo, Western commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), as the author behind the assassination of Archbishop Isaías Duarte Cansino of Cali, Columbia, which took place on March 16, 2002.
The Attorney General also named 3 others material cooperators, including Carlos Augusto Ramírez, who was assassinated on May 30, 2002, in a Colombian prison. The other 2 remain in custody. During the trial, the Attorney General will accuse the members of the leadership of the FARC to be the intellectual authors of the homicide.
Authorities based their conclusions in part on the testimonies of three members of FARC, who agreed to cooperate with the government. According to their statements, five general commanders of the guerrilla organization had agreed to directly order the assassination. One of them, known as “Mincho” told the others, “The bishop must be silenced because he is talking too much.”
According to the Attorney General, guerrilla members on the FARC’s western front were told various times that the organization deemed necessary the assassination of Archbishop Duarte.
According the report, Archbishop Duarte was the victim of a silent war between FARC and drug traffickers of northern Columbia. FARC leaders intended to blame the murder on a well-known drug-trafficker named Diego Montoya Henao. 72 hours after the assassination, the FARC released a public statement accusing Henao of the crime. “We have nothing to do with what has happened,” it said. “We had our differences with Duarte but our methods do not include recourse to cunning political assassinations. We insist that the Attorney General investigate Diego Montoya.”
Archbishop Duarte was aware that the FARC wanted to kill him. He shared this with one of his closest collaborators a few days before his death. He expressed his disbelief that after having assisted in the release of Pablo Catatumbo’s sister, Catacumbo now was looking to kill him. “From now on we need to be very careful because this has become a dangerous situation,” the Archbishop said to confidants.
Those close to Archbishop Duarte said that during one of his many interventions for the release of hostages, he met and conversed with Catacumbo, saying afterwards, “I have never seen the devil, but I suppose this man looks like him more than anybody else I know.”