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“Emerald Czar” Document Spurs Controversy, Investigation

January 7, 2013

Follow the Colombia Documentation Project on Twitter @Colombiadocs

Former "Emerald Czar" lawyer (and current Supreme Court justice) Fernando Castro Caballero.

Former “Emerald Czar” lawyer (and current Supreme Court justice) Fernando Castro Caballero.

Colombian prosecutors will investigate allegations in a recently published State Department cable that billionaire Víctor Carranza was “responsible for the October 1997 Miraflores massacre.” Reports of the new probe came via RCN and W Radio in Colombia, who joined a number of other media outlets in covering our declassified dossier on Colombia’s “Emerald Czar.” (En Español @ VerdadAbierta.com)

Pivoting off of our document release, Semana magazine columnist Daniel Coronell points out that Carranza’s former attorney, Fernando Castro Caballero, who just took a seat on Colombia’s Supreme Judicial Court, will have the final word on another important human rights case allegedly tied to Carranza: the 1997 Mapiripán massacre.

Coronell says that a recent investigation has found that Castro had far stronger links to Carranza than he has previously said:

[A]n investigation by Equipo Nizkor found documents that show that the link was much closer than the magistrate wants to admit. The truth is that doctor Castro Caballero served as Víctor Carranza’s legal advocate in the formation and financing of paramilitary groups.

Coronell’s concerns about Carranza’s ability to manipulate the Colombian justice system are echoed in a declassified U.S. State Department cable published as part of our “Emerald Czar” collection.

A cable from the U.S. Embassy in 1996 cites a source who explains that there had been two processes open against Víctor Carranza. In the first, none of the witnesses came forward. In the second, all of the witnesses had died.

Coronell cites another cable from the collection in which a paramilitary leader using Carranza’s reported alias “freely admitted” that “he and men under his command” were “responsible for the October 1997 Miraflores massacre” and that the Colombian Army “had facilitated the operation ‘from beginning to end.’”

“If Víctor Carranza is identified as the paramilitary chief of Meta and allied with the Castaño family,” asks Coronell, “should his former lawyer pronounce the final word of justice in the case of the Mapiripán massacre?”

After previous attempts to prosecute Carranza failed to produce a conviction, the Human Rights Unit of the Colombian Prosecutor General’s Office (Fiscalía) opened a new investigation of Carranza’s paramilitary connections in February 2012 based largely on the testimony of former paramilitary chiefs linking Carranza to the financing and operations of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). But this is apparently the first time that the billionaire emerald magnate has been officially investigated in relation to Miraflores.

Television coverage of Carranza’s alleged links to Miraflores is available here and below, courtesy of Canal Capital Bogotá.

Follow the Colombia Documentation Project on Twitter @Colombiadocs

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