Colombian prosecutors to investigate alleged killing of civilians
The report reminded Colombians of the so-called false positives scandal, in which soldiers killed thousands of civilians and disguised them as slain guerrillas to obtain bonuses mainly between 2002 and 2010.
The New York Times said Martinez “has ordered his troops to double the number of criminals and militants they kill, capture or force to surrender in battle – and possibly accept higher civilian casualties in the process.
“False-positives’ – the innocents murdered in Colombia by the military to meet quotas – is a phrase many want to forget.
“But the words are ones that high-level officers are speaking of again,’’ the author of the article, Nicholas Casey, tweeted last week.
Botero admitted that combat killings had increased, but attributed the phenomenon to more soldiers having been deployed on the ground.
Gen. Martinez denied the New York Times report. “No general or colonel has said what the newspaper says. Loyalty is a supreme value of the military honour,” he said.
Casey has left Colombia on the recommendation of the U.S. embassy, according to television reports.
His article had elicited angry reactions from retired army officers and President Ivan Duque’s right-wing Democratic Centre party.
Sen. Maria Cabal, a Democratic Centre party member, suggested that the journalist sympathised with the former guerrilla movement FARC and had been paid for the report.
Botero also said Casey’s article contained “imprecision’s.”
“The New York Times does not take part in any political conflict anywhere in the world,” a spokesperson of the newspaper said.
“We inform in an accurate and impartial manner. In Colombia, we have written very hard stories about FARC, the rebel groups and other criminal organisations.
“In this case, we simply report on what written army documents are saying, as well as information coming from Colombian officials,” the Spanish-language statement added.
The opposition was meanwhile preparing a no-confidence vote to force Botero to resign.
The motion will be based not only on the New York Times report, but also on previous accusations that soldiers executed a former guerrilla and that the government has not done its best to prevent the killings of hundreds of community leaders since a peace deal with FARC was signed in 2016.