Carlos Castano Gil (1965-2004) was the founder of the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Cordoba and Uraba (ACCU), an extreme right paramilitary organization in Colombia. Castano and his brothers Fidel and Vicente founded this group (and its previous incarnations) after their father was kidnapped and killed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in association with other enemies or victims of the guerrillas. The ACCU later became one of the founding members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).
In a 1996 interview with writer Robin Kirk, later published in ''More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs and America's War in Colombia'' , Castano acknowledged that the men under his command committed 'excesses', but defended them as necessary in Colombia's conflict. "Look, the guerrillas hide themselves within the civilian population, they manipulate the population". In a September 1997 interview in El Tiempo newspaper, Castano admitted responsibility for the Mapiripan massacre.
In 1997, Castano later founded an
umbrella organization of paramilitaries operating in Colombia known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The AUC is currently fighting a brutal war against the FARC in which many civilians have been killed. The AUC has been accused by human rights organizations of committing atrocities, and it has openly admitted to its involvement in the drug trade. The AUC is listed by the US Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Castano was convicted in absentia of the murder of journalist Jaime Garzon, and sentenced to 38 years in prison.
Accusations of narcotrafficking
On September 24, 2002, the United States Department of Justice unsealed an indictment against Castano which accused him of trafficking over 17 tons of cocaine into the United States. Castano announced that he would give himself up for trial in the United States and would accept his participation in numerous crimes, though he resented his being personally linked to the drug trade.
Castano had become isolated from the organization according to some observers, as he seemed to become relatively critical of the AUC's increasing association with narcotraffickers in recent years and was more willing to compromise with the Colombian state, and thus the remaining AUC commanders might have turned their backs on him.
Disappearance and death
Castano suffered an attempt on his life on April 16, 2004 (just a few months before his friend and also paramilitary leader Miguel Arroyave who was assasinated on September of that same year) at the hands of rival paramilitary troops, or perhaps even other entities altogether. Acting AUC commanders claimed initially that there was an accidental exchange of gunfire between his bodyguards and a separate group of paramilitary fighters.
Other sources within the group and among its dissident factions claim that he and his men were captured and tortured before being executed and then buried by order of other AUC top leaders (perhaps his own brother Vicente Castano and Diego Murillo AKA "Don Berna"), who have become increasingly close to narcotraffickers and their trade. Colombian investigators found a makeshift grave and an unidentified body (yet apparently not Castano's) near the supposed area of the events. Those same sources allege that the bodies of Castano and his other companions were dug up and taken to other locations before the investigators could arrive.
The possible death of the AUC co-founder remains in the air and has been the subject of wild and rampant speculation. One of the rumours, dating from June 1, 2004, stated that unidentified diplomatic sources told the AFP agency that Castano may have been spirited away to Israel, via Panama, allegedly with U.S. assistance. No specific reasoning or details regarding this claim where produced and the parties allegedly involved separately denied their participation.
Sources from the AUC and other local militant factions continued to dispute the exact whereabouts of Carlos Castano. His personal and financial connections between narcotraffickers and other sectors of society could have allowed for their possible collaboration in his conspicuous disappearance or murder. Despite these claims, the truth regarding Castano's exact condition remained unknown.
On August 23, 2006, Colombia's Attorney General publicly ordered the capture of his brother Vicente Castano and seven other individuals, accusing them of being involved in Carlos Castano's apparent death. Alleged witnesses to the crime have declared that Castano's body was apparently dismembered and incinerated.
Castano's skeleton was recovered from a shallow grave on September 1, 2006 and identified through DNA testing by the Colombian government authorities. His brother's second lieutenant named Jesus Roldan AKA "MonoLeche", a former EPL guerrillaman who later joined the paramilitaries, confessed to his murder and led authorities to the grave. [*] [*]
United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia
Paramilitarism in Colombia
Colombian Armed Conflict
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Carlos Castano