Colombian top general Mario Montoya faces murder charges in ‘false positives’ scandal

Wednesday - 04/08/2021 11:15
Uribe’s ‘hero of the homeland’ is alleged to have overseen the abduction and execution of up to 104 civilians – including five children

Gen Mario Montoya was the star soldier who oversaw the defeat of Latin America’s most powerful insurgency, a US-trained professional hailed for turning around a demoralized army and masterminding a string of brutal strikes against Colombia’s leftist guerrillas.

After taking command of the South American country’s army in 2006, he regularly appeared on television news, the face of a modern military who even spoke the language of human rights.

“Gen Montoya commanded the army at the height of the conflict, when the military was taking the fight to the guerrillas with unprecedented intensity,” said Adam Isacson, director for defence oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America. “He seemed like an emblem of a new, more professional, more effective army that worked closely with the United States.”

Now, however, Montoya is facing murder charges, alleged to have overseen the abduction and execution of up to 104 civilians – including five children – who were falsely described as rebels to boost statistics, in a scandal known in Colombia as the “false positives”.

“Montoya’s legacy is very different from what he, and Colombians, had expected it to be in mid-2008,” Isacson said. “He has since come to be seen as a general who measured success through body counts, and who created an internal climate that tolerated human rights abuses.”

The office of Colombia’s attorney general announced on Sunday that charges would be forthcoming, puncturing the now-retired general’s aura of invincibility – and giving victims hope that light will finally be shed on one of the darkest chapters of the country’s internal conflict.

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 Keywords: Colombia

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