In Colombia, the president's security policy challenged

Colombian Defense Minister Guillermo Botero has resigned amid criticism of his management. He is accused of concealing the death of eight teenagers during a bombing.

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Colombian President Ivan Duque, November 7, 2019 in Bogota.
Colombian President Ivan Duque, November 7, 2019 in Bogota. Fernando Vergara / AP

Announced on November 6, the resignation of Colombian Defense Minister Guillermo Botero did not silence critics. The death of seven teenagers and a twelve-year-old girl during a bombing in the south of the country at the end of August continues to dominate the political debate. Thursday, President Ivan Duque once again praised his resigning minister, whom he praised "Will and patriotism". Beyond the scandal of teen death, it is the entire security policy of the government in place that is questionable.

Three years after the signing of a historic peace agreement with the old guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), the security situation in the country remains precarious. Targeted killings continue. According to the local UN office, 63 human rights defenders have been murdered since the beginning of the year. The military seems unable to regain control of the territories in dispute between drug traffickers and residual rebel groups. Burrs and lies are multiplying.

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Coming from business, without experience in security, Guillermo Botero, 71, had been contested for months. A motion of censure had been tabled against him the previous week. "I do not remember a minister of defense as indolent and incompetent as Mr. Botero," summed up security expert Jairo Libreros.

"Massacre of children"

Concealed for two months, the death of eight teenagers was revealed Tuesday by Senator Roy Barreras, author of the motion of censure against the Minister. The facts go back to August 29th. While several historic FARC commanders have just announced that they are resuming the maquis, the army has decided (in retaliation?) To bomb a dissident guerrilla camp near San Vicente del Caguan in the south of the country. The official goal is a rebel leader, known as Giraldo Cucho. An initial assessment of the bombing reports nine dead; a second, fourteen. On television, the president congratulates his army on September 2 for this operation "Impeccable".

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Did the military know that there were teenagers in the camp? No, answered Guillermo Botero at the Senate tribune and, on the radio, General Luis Fernando Navarro, commander-in-chief of the armed forces. But a local official, Herner Carreno, says he had reported to the municipal authorities and the military the disappearance of several young people from the region, forcibly recruited by the rebels. Mr Carreno, who claims to have immediately denounced "The massacre of children", wonders about the silence of the press which did not relay the information.


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