Colombia.- The president of Colombia, Gustav Petro, named this Friday a new military leadership to which he charged “the substantial increase in respect for human rights and civil liberties.”
The first leftist to come to power in Colombia during the campaign promised reforms to a public force questioned for excesses in operations against armed groups and anti-government protests.
with the designation of the new controls his government rushes out of about thirty Army and Police Generals.
As commander of the military forces, General Helder Fernan Giraldo, a 55-year-old soldier who was in charge of operations on the violent 2,200-kilometer border with Venezuela, will take over.
General Luis Mauricio Ospina will do the same in the Army and General Luis Carlos Córdoba in the Air Force. General Henry Armando Sanabria will lead the Police and Vice Admiral Francisco Hernando Cubides will command the Navy.
In the midst of the worst spike in violence after the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC, the new leadership will have as priorities “the reduction of violence, crime, and the substantial increase in respect for human rights and civil liberties,” Petro said at a news conference.
“In this decision-making there are always degrees of injustice, I am not going to say that they are perfect decisions”he admitted when questioned about the massive departure of senior generals.
Petro’s rise to power unsettles the military, who are now subservient to a former member of leftist guerrillas who have fought through six decades of conflict.
During the campaign, the president accused members of the former leadership of being allied with the Clan del Golfo, the largest drug gang in the country.
In response, the then commander of the army, General Eduardo Zapateiro, publicly rebuked him in an unusual political intervention, since the country’s Constitution prohibits the public force from participating in political debate and voting.
“We are facing a change, a change of mentalities, the government changed, the strategies changedPetro said this Friday.
The trajectory of the new commanders shows “zero corruption, zero violation of fundamental rights, at least through the information we obtained,” added the president.
In April, the then candidate described as a “war crime” a military operation against alleged guerrillas on the border with Ecuador in which 11 people died, several of them civilians according to the residents.
From parliament he also criticized the police repression during last year’s protests against his predecessor, Iván Duque, in which 28 people died at the hands of the public force, according to the UN.
His government is seeking to transform or eliminate the riot squad involved in many of these abuses and remove the police from the Defense portfolio so that it becomes a “special ministry” of peace, coexistence and security.
Although the military enjoys popular support, scandals have undermined its reputation, including the alliances with bloodthirsty paramilitaries and the execution of 6,402 civilians that the troops presented as guerrillas killed in combat to inflate their results between 2002 and 2008.
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“That promotion criterion measured by casualties that generated such a disaster a few years ago has to change. That the promotion be measured the other way around: because the massacre was prevented, the death of the social leader was prevented,” Petro stated.