Francisco Barbosa, in Bogotá, on March 24, 2023. LUISA GONZALEZ (REUTERS)
The Colombian Attorney General’s Office is investigating an alleged plan by the National Liberation Army (ELN) to assassinate Attorney General Francisco Barbosa. As revealed in a statement, three sources have informed the entity about sniper training and movements of large sums of money in the accounts of the suspects. The guerrilla, which is negotiating peace with the Government of Gustavo Petro, has affirmed this Wednesday on social networks that the news is “false” and that the Prosecutor’s Office seeks to sabotage the dialogues that are taking place with the Executive.
The deputy prosecutor, Martha Mancera, specified this Wednesday morning on Caracol Radio that the investigation has been going on for a month. She has detailed that a source in Bogotá was the first to inform the entity, which later received similar reports from another part of the country. Finally, on Friday the confirmation came from the intelligence services of the Military Forces. As Mancera explained, the mentions of snipers and amounts of money comparable to those that the ELN moved in the attack against the General Santander Police Cadet School in 2019, which left 23 dead and led to the indefinite suspension of the police, are particularly worrying. dialogues with the government of that time. “The modality is what has us very concerned,” she remarked, referring to a plan that seems elaborate and not “a simple expression” of intentions.
The statement from the Prosecutor’s Office indicates that the coordinator of the operation is José Benigno Guzmán, known as El Rolo. He is the head of the National Urban War Front and is identified as one of those responsible for the attack carried out by the guerrillas in January of last year against the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (Esmad) of the Police, in Cali, as well as other attacks in cucuta However, no further details are known about other fronts involved or about the place where the attack against Barbosa was planned to be carried out. According to Mancera, it is necessary to limit the information disseminated to public opinion so as not to hinder the investigations.
“This situation of the ELN seems regrettable to us. Especially when the Attorney General of the Nation, Dr. Francisco Barbosa, has been lifting and suspending the arrest warrants so that negotiating tables with the ELN can be held,” Mancera said in his radio statements. He did not want to refer to the rumors of internal divisions in the armed group regarding the peace talks and the impact that the revelations could have at the negotiating table.
The ELN, the last active guerrilla in Latin America, has accused the Prosecutor’s Office of having the intention of sabotaging the peace process. Under the hashtag # FiscalíaMiente, the delegation has compared the situation with the statements made a few days ago by Nicolás Petro about the alleged illegal financing of his father’s presidential campaign. “It is no coincidence that on August 3, the day of the installation of society’s participation in the peace process and the ceasefire, the Prosecutor’s Office released the news about the president’s son,” the guerrilla highlighted.
Barbosa, a friend of former right-wing president Iván Duque, is one of the biggest critics of Petro’s total peace policy. He has clashed with the president on several occasions and has refused to lift the arrest warrants of other armed groups with which the government is negotiating. It maintains that several of the processes, such as that of the Clan del Golfo or that of the FARC dissidents, should not move forward until there is a law for the submission to justice aimed at organized crime organizations that do not have the political nature that it does. the ELN. However, when the project was debated in Congress, he accused Petro of wanting to benefit drug traffickers and of presenting a text with which “Pablo Escobar would be happy.”
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The Minister of Defense, Iván Velásquez, declared this Wednesday that it is necessary to verify the sources of the Prosecutor’s Office because the information of a possible attack may come from “enemies of the peace process” who seek to torpedo the negotiations. Something similar has been said by the head of Foreign Relations, Álvaro Leyva, who has had fewer qualms about emphasizing the impact that the information from the Prosecutor’s Office can have. “You have to find out very thoroughly, because it could be a bomb against the peace process with the Elenos”, commented the chancellor, known as one of the defenders of total peace.
The government’s chief negotiator with the ELN, Otty Patiño, has asked for serenity and caution. “Imagine engaging Venezuela, a sniper training. All of this sets up a very serious picture ”, he acknowledged on Caracol Radio. According to him, the intelligence commanders of the Military Forces had not informed him about the alleged attempted attack on the Attorney General.
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