HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Colombian Soldiers Convicted in Massacre
Pubdate: Tue, 19 Feb 2008
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Times
Author: Chris Kraul Los, Angeles Times Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


They're Found to Have Slaughtered 10 Police Officers on the Orders of 
Drug Traffickers in May 2006.

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -- A Colombian army colonel and 14 soldiers were 
convicted Monday of killing members of an elite, U.S.-trained 
counter- narcotics police squad on the orders of drug traffickers, 
one of the most sordid of several recent cases of alleged corruption 
in the armed forces.

A judge in Cali found Col. Bayron Carvajal and the soldiers guilty of 
aggravated homicide in the slaughter of 10 police officers and an 
informant in a May 2006 ambush outside a rural nursing home near 
Cali. Sentences will be imposed in two weeks.

The massacre was just one of several scandals over the last two years 
that have tarnished this country's armed forces and raised questions 
about the U.S.-sponsored program called Plan Colombia that in 2000 
began funneling millions of dollars in aid here.

Since 2006, high-ranking military officers are alleged to have sold 
secrets to drug traffickers to help them elude capture, and to have 
planted fake bombs to gain career advancement. A recent report by 
human rights groups found that extrajudicial killings by the army 
have increased since the early years of Plan Colombia.

Carvajal maintained his innocence throughout the trial, saying he and 
his troops thought the police were drug traffickers. More than 100 
witnesses were called to testify, some of whom linked Carvajal to 
both leftist guerrillas and drug gangs.

Defense attorneys said the legal process was tainted by public 
statements from the attorney general and President Alvaro Uribe that 
the soldiers had murdered the police.

The soldiers lay in wait, then fired hundreds of rounds and threw 
several grenades at the police unit as it was about to launch an 
operation to recover 220 pounds of cocaine that a tipster had said 
was stashed inside a psychiatric facility in the town of Jamundi.

Six police officers were found to have been shot at close range. None 
of the soldiers were wounded.

No drugs were found, and the informant -- who prosecutors said spoke 
by phone with Carvajal shortly before the attack -- was killed as well.

The preponderance of Plan Colombia aid, which in recent years has 
averaged more than $650 million a year, has gone to expand, equip and 
train Colombia's military and national police. Congress was assured 
that human rights abuses and corruption in the Colombian armed forces 
would decline as a result of U.S. training. 
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