Lifting the Veil on Colombia’s “Emerald Czar”

Declassified Cable Links Víctor Carranza’s Alias to 1997 Miraflores Massacre

Source: The National Security Archive

An individual using the reported alias of Colombian billionaire Víctor Carranza Niño “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,’” according to a formerly-Secret cable from the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. The document was published today by the National Security Archive as part of a special Web posting on the man widely-known as the “Emerald Czar.” The declassified collection is also the subject of a column published below and in Spanish on the Web site of Semana magazine and

The December 1997 report, titled, “Mapiripán and Miraflores: Increased Signs of Army Facilitation of Paramilitaries,” attributes the confession to “Clodomiro Agami,” an alias strikingly similar to the one said to have been used by Carranza. Earlier this year, detained former paramilitary chief Freddy Rendón Herrera (“El Alemán”), told prosecutors from Colombia’s Justice and Peace tribunal that Carranza was a longtime paramilitary supporter and one of the co-founders, in 1997, of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), under the alias “Clodomiro Agámez.”

Paramilitary gunmen murdered 12 people and displaced hundreds more during the three-day operation in Miraflores, which targeted presumed supporters of a leftist guerrilla group. The massacre was part of a coordinated AUC military offensive to project power outside of traditional strongholds and take control of the country’s lucrative narcotics business.

“Clodomiro” said that members of the Colombian Army “had been fully aware in advance of his plans and activities in Miraflores,” according to the cable, and that the Army “was so infiltrated by paramilitaries and their supporters that he and his colleagues felt no concern about ever being arrested.” “Clodomiro” and his forces “were always warned in advance of any possibility of capture.” The Embassy identifies “Agami” as “the head of the ‘Llanos Orientales’ [Eastern Plains] paramilitaries.”

The 77-year-old Carranza is currently under investigation by the Colombian prosecutor’s office on allegations that he organized and financed paramilitary groups in the Llanos Orientales responsible for numerous massacres and assassinations over several decades. The probe was spurred by the confessions of “El Alemán” and at least half a dozen former commanders of the AUC, who have implicated Carranza in decades of paramilitary violence.

The other declassified documents published today also portray Carranza as a behind-the-scenes paramilitary financier and organizer with ties to narcotics trafficking and the Colombian security forces.

  • A U.S. Embassy cable from 1991 characterizes Carranza as a “big-time narco” with links to major traffickers.

  • An Embassy cable from April 1997 details Carranza’s paramilitary organization calling him one of the two “best known” paramilitary leaders in Colombia.

  • A 1997 CIA report notes that Carranza and well-known AUC leader Carlos Castaño had “put aside their differences in order to pool resources and field more competent combat forces against the guerrillas.”

  • An Embassy review of the Colombian government’s efforts against illegal paramiltary groups lists the 1998 “arrest of Victor Carranza” as a sign “that we may be crossing a watershed on the nettlesome issue of the military-paramilitary nexus.”

  • In a briefing for the commander of U.S. Southern Command, Gen. Charles Wilhelm, an Embassy staffer “remarked that Carranza is considered more powerful than [AUC leader Carlos] Castano because he is a billionaire; is twice Castano’s age; controls more people under arms; and won a bloody war in the late 1980s against druglord Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha.” Carranza was “content to operate behind the scenes, allowing Castano to play a higher-profile public role.”

  • A State Department intelligence report from 1998 says Carranza “has been involved in illegal financial activity, including drug trafficking.” “[I]nternational business interests” were “increasingly concerned” about paramiltary activity in Colombia, according to the report, and “[m]ultinational oil company executives” had “expressed concern about the expansion of Carranza’s paramilitary forces.”

  • The Defense Intelligence Agency reported that a Colombian Army official had been approached by a “paramilitary agent” from the “Victor Carranza group” requesting military support to “legalize” murders resulting from a paramilitary “cleansing” operation in the Tomachipán, presumably by classifying them as guerrillas killed in action.