Politicians criticise police comments over murder of former FARC member and bodyguards

Politicians in the Comunes political party have criticised comments made by a senior police officer following the abduction and murder of former FARC member José Roa and his two bodyguards, Luis Eduardo Sterling and Yilber Silva, on 14 January in Pitalito, department of Huila.

The three men were attending a meeting when armed assailants entered the space and forced them into their own vehicle, issued by the National Protection Unit, the state-run security body that employed Luis and Yilber. The two bodyguards were subsequently found dead with signs of torture. José’s body was discovered soon afterwards.

José was a leader in the Association of Agricultural Producers and Workers in Huila (ASTPAH), a collective of former guerrillas and local communities, as well as a participant in the CSIVI verification body and a departamental representative of the Comunes party. He was based at the reincorporation zone Heiler Mosquera in the southern department of Putumayo, where he also coordinated programmes around voluntary substitution of illegal crops.

Despite José’s important participation in the peace process, following the crime a senior police official implied during a television interview that he had been posing as a member of the Segunda Marquetalia armed group, a potential factor in the attack.

Comunes politicians swiftly criticised the comments. Senator Julián Gallo tweeted that ‘it is unacceptable that a police official publicly reproduces “versions”, without any legal substance, that end up justifying the killing.’ Sergio Marín, a Comunes congress member, tweeted that ‘it is a massacre and it is inconceivable to make accusations based on “comments”.’

Comunes was founded under the peace agreement’s terms on political participation to represent former FARC members in electoral politics. According to the party, the murder of José Roa takes the number of former FARC members murdered since entering the peace process to 419.