New ELN Commanders on Trial for Allegedly Ordering the Death of CTI Agents

After 20 years, the judicial process for the death of two agents of the Technical Corps of Investigation (CTI) in Antioquia is moving. On September 3, 1998, Edilbrando Roa López and John Alejandro Morales were assassinated while carrying out research work in the municipality of Sonson. The Prosecutor’s Office assures that “the criminal action was planned and executed in compliance with the general orders issued by the Central Command of the ELN.” Because of this, the investigating agency accused four high-ranking officers of that guerrilla.

On September 2, 1998, the height of the corregimiento of San Miguel, the vehicle in which Roa and Morales were mobilized was stopped at an illegal checkpoint. When the armed men realized that they were officials of the Prosecutor’s Office, they kidnapped them. Their bodies were found on the same road the next day. For these facts, Nicolás Rodríguez Bautista, alias Gabino; Israel Ramírez Pineda, aka Pablo Beltrán; Eliecer Herlindo Chamorro Acosta, alias Antonio García and Rafael Sierra Granados, alias Ramiro Vargas will go on trial for the crimes of simple kidnapping and aggravated homicide, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.

According to the investigating body, the kidnapping and subsequent assassination of the officials was planned and ordered by the Central Command of the ELN (COCE), a structure led by the four defendants in the case. For the Prosecutor’s Office, it is clear, according to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of Justice, that “the criminal actions attributed to the different fronts, crews, companies and other structures of the ELN are the result of the guidelines defined by the maximum ringleaders who are part of the so-called central command (COCE) “.

At the time, Roa documented the relationship between the sporting leader and owner of Envigado , Gustavo Upegui, with illegal groups, and supported the investigation for the sound raid of the parking lot of Padilla, which in 1997 unveiled the insides of paramilitarism and its relationship with the Envigado Office. The agent of the CTI was sent to Medellín to collect clues of the case, and on September 2, together with his partner John Alejandro Morales, he traveled to carry out inspection work for Sonsón. For this reason, at first, the Roa family blamed the paramilitaries for the crime.

In August 2018 the Prosecutor’s Office explained how the investigation of this case was going. In this regard, it was reported that José Luis Mejía Ramírez, alias Bayron , military commander of the Carlos Alirio Buitrago del Eln Front was in custody. “I remember the fact, but I do not know who did it. That was a long time ago and, besides, I was not directly, “said the ex-guerrilla. Although Mejía Ramírez denied being the intellectual author of the murder, he assumed responsibility for having been commander of the Carlos Alirio Buitrago Front of the ELN and aimed at a new person operating in the region.

This was the case with the Prosecutor’s Office with Héctor Hugo Ramirez Zuluaga, alias Esteban or El Cuñado , detained in the prison of Cómbita (Boyacá). Ramírez Zuluaga said he was under Bayron’s command and learned of the agents’ murder. “The check was made by people under my command. I was in the facts and I reported them. I received the order to kill them and that’s how it was done, “said Esteban . For the investigating body, testimonies such as this were key in determining that the material authors acted on the orders of the Central Command.

At the time Roa and Morales were considered martyrs and the Prosecutor’s Office promised to find those responsible. After years of judicial battles and persecutions, in October of last year the prosecution declared these murders as war crimes so that they did not prescribe. For the investigative body, the events occurred in the context of the armed conflict, since Roa and Morales were killed because they were considered a threat because they belonged to the CTI.

On January 31 of this year, as this newspaper reported, the ELN team that was negotiating with the government for an eventual abandonment of arms in Havana refused to return to Colombia. “On January 18, the Government announced its refusal to resume peace talks with the ELN and subsequently declared that it did not know the protocols signed in 2016.

It has also refused to participate in the preparation of the return plan for the delegation and , therefore, it will not be possible to specify such return in the foreseen term , “reads the statement of the guerrilla at that time. Meanwhile, the arrest warrants against him resumed and are called to respond in other proceedings, such as the attack on the Santander General Police School in January of this year.the kidnapping of journalists from several journalists in Catatumbo, among whom was Salud Hernández Mora, among others.

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