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The “Sixth Division”: Military-paramilitary Ties and U.S. Policy in Colombia

Appendix 2. The AUC and La Terraza

The paramilitary groups' own members may end up revealing most about them. In 2000, a group of hired killers known as La Terraza had a falling out with Carlos Castaño, who government investigators say paid them to carry out killings in urban areas such as Bogotá and Medellín beginning in 1997. In August 2000, Castaño apparently lured seven members of La Terraza to a meeting and had them killed, allegedly for committing crimes against some of his financial backers.383

In response, men identifying themselves as La Terraza members sent a public letter to Colombia's leaders and the media alleging that Castaño and the AUC "are nothing more than a gang."384 In the letter, a video, and in direct statements to television journalists, the men acknowledged a series of killings linked to them by the Attorney General's office, including the 1997 murders of CINEP worker Mario Calderón, his wife, Elsa Alvarado, and her father, Carlos Alvarado; and the 1998 murders of human rights lawyers Eduardo Umaña and Jesús Valle.385

Beginning in January 2001, unknown persons began placing car bombs in wealthy areas in Medellín, leading government investigators to suspect that the attacks were part of the struggle between Castaño and La Terraza.386 Another La Terraza leader, Ronald de Jesús Arroyave, was murdered on May 16 in Medellín, causing a panic throughout the city as residents prepared for a retaliation bombing.387 Their concerns may have been justified. The next day, a powerful car bomb exploded in a wealthy Medellín neighborhood, killing six.388

The split between Castaño and La Terraza did not prevent Castaño from paying others to murder. On December 15, gunmen believed to be in Castaño's pay attacked union leader Wilson Borja, wounding him, and killed a street vendor who was a witness. Borja was president of the National Federation of State Workers (Federación Nacional de Trabajadores al Servicio del Estado, FENALTRASE). One gunman wounded by Borja's bodyguards was killed four blocks away immediately after the failed attack, apparently by other assassins who sought a quick getaway. Among those suspected by the Attorney General's office of planning and carrying out the attack were CNP captain Carlos Freddy Gómez Ordóñez and three army soldiers: army Major César Maldonado Vidales, retired Captain Jorge Ernesto Rojas, and non-commissioned officers Johnson Gamboa Sotelo and Juan Evangelista Basto Bernal.389

383. "Bandas / La Organización Delincuencial Sigue Viva," El Tiempo, September 6, 2000.

384. Letter from La Terraza to President Pastrana and others, November, 2000.

385. La Terraza is also linked to the murders of Mario Calderón and Elsa Alvarado of CINEP; Hernán Henao, an Antioquia academic; and the comedian Jaime Garzón. In the letter, the writers take responsibility for all of these murders. Letter from La Terraza to President Pastrana and others, November, 2000; and Caracol broadcast, December 13, 2000.

386. Human Rights Watch interview with government investigator, Bogotá, January 9, 2001.

387. "Asesinado jefe de sicarios de 'La Terraza'," El Tiempo, May 17, 2001.

388. "Car bomb kills six in Colombia's second-largest city," Associated Press, May 17, 2001.

389. "Vinculan a un mayor a caso Borja," El Espectador, March 5, 2001; and "'Capitán estaba en Bogotá ese día': Policía," El Tiempo, February 9, 2001.

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