How Colombia’s Vice Attorney General is protecting an alleged drug trafficker
Evidence shows Mancera lied about attempts to bury criminal investigation
This PWS story is by Colombia Reports executive editor Adriaan Alsema
Colombia’s deputy Prosecutor General Martha Mancera is protecting a prosecution executive who has been accused of drug trafficking, according to evidence that was made public by Colombian news website Revista Raya and journalist Daniel Coronell.
Francisco Javier Martinez, a.k.a. “Pacho Malo,” is the former director of the Technical Investigations Unit (CTI) in the Pacific port city of Buenaventura. CTI is an investigative team that forms part of the Attorney General’s Office and investigates drug crimes— but internal investigations by the AG’s office accuse Martinez himself of narco-trafficking.
Or at least they did until Mancera squashed it.
Pacho Malo’s alleged involvement in the drug trade was discovered by three undercover agents who had infiltrated his alleged drug trafficking organization.
One of the agents, Mario Fernando Herrera, formally reported the accusations to his superior, Counternarcotics prosecutor Jaime Hernan Ocampo, on March 25 2021.
In the six-page document, which is now public, Herrera says that Pacho Malo offered one of his undercover colleagues his services in smuggling cocaine shipments of up to 300 kilograms via smuggling containers in the Buenaventura port— the largest in the country.
“Upon obtaining said information, verification processes were deployed to establish the veracity of the information provided by the undercover agent, which is credible, and taking into account the degree of danger conceived by the same, human sources residing and working in the municipality of Buenaventura and others who have provided relevant information on events in the port of Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca were consulted, and that he is head of the Technical Investigation Corps Unit (CTI) and that his name is Francisco Javier Martinez Ardila, that this is very sensitive, that he has links with criminal organizations in the municipality and that he is very feared.”
From the internal AG report on “Pacho Malo”
The regional CTI director also offered to sell the undercover agents cocaine that had been seized by authorities, including his office.
The day after filing the report, Herrera was assassinated by EMC guerrillas while he was undercover in the southwestern Cauca province. His two colleagues, Fabio Gonzalez and Pablo Bolaños, narrowly escaped.
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Attorney General Francisco Barbosa and Mancera traveled to the city of Manizales to attend the funeral of Herrera and meet with the two surviving agents, who had become suspicious and recorded the meeting.
The chief prosecutor told Bolaños and Gonzalez that he knew about their operation and offered them his support.
The deputy chief prosecutor subsequently interrogated the agents about the details of their undercover operation.
At one point, the investigators said, they showed Mancera a photo of Pacho Malo.
“At that point, she acted like she had seen the devil” and abruptly ended the meeting, the investigators told Raya.
And shortly afterwards, the surviving agents suddenly found themselves targets of a sprawling investigation initiated by Mancera.
Two days after the meeting, on March 30, the prosecution reportedly received an anonymous tip claiming that Gonzalez and Bolaños were the ones who had been stealing seized cocaine.
This alleged tip was reportedly received by Judicial Police chief Victor Forero, the boyfriend of one of Mancera’s most loyal subordinates, Territorial Security chief Luisa Obando, who was present at the meeting with the agents.
Mancera subsequently appointed notorious prosecutor Daniel Hernandez, who has long faced credible corruption accusations, to investigate Gonzalez and Bolaños, according to Raya.
Mancera began to pressure subordinates to secure the removal of Pacho Malo’s name from the report submitted to Ocampo in the days leading up to Herrera’s assassination.
In a voice message, the prosecutor who oversaw the undercover operation told Bolaños that “the [regional] director just called me, brother, that the deputy is on top of it, that she’s going to cancel” the investigation into Pacho Malo’s alleged drug trafficking organization.
Forero, who allegedly received the anonymous tip about the investigators, traveled to Manizales on April 21 and asked Bolaños and Gonzalez to delete all references to Pacho Malo’s alleged drug trafficking from the report filed by Herrera ahead of his death.
“We would like to count on your authorization to modify it, as in delete the part that has to do with this guy because this investigation has nothing to do with him and it’s no good this is going around,” said Forero while being recorded by the investigators.
In the recording, Forero instructs prosecutor Juan Camilo Lopez on how to remove references to Pacho Malo from the report.
According to Raya, the prosecution refused to receive this recording or investigate the findings of the media company’s report of a conspiracy to cover up Pacho Malo’s alleged organized crime activity.
La Raya also published extracts of the redacted report, which has no mention of Pacho Malo, who has since been transferred to the city of Pereira, after the two surviving AG investigators went public in November of last year.
Mancera claimed in subsequent interviews that Bolaños and Gonzalez were being investigated because the report that was leaked to Raya didn’t exist.
The deputy chief prosecutor additionally claimed that she had no legal obligation to investigate Pacho Malo, which is…well…an incredibly bold lie.
The prosecution last week said that it had shelved the investigation into Mancera’s cover-up, falsely claiming that there was no evidence of a crime, despite their own internal reports suggesting otherwise, and evidence of doctoring reports by high-level officials within the AG’s office.
Mancera has been named by Barbosa, whose term is about to expire, to take over for him as interim Attorney General until a permanent replacement can be found.
Courts have been deadlocked on appointing one of the new applicants put forward by President Gustavo Petro. Barbosa, who is also facing several corruption allegations, has feuded publicly with the President since he took office.
The Prosecutor’s Office in Colombia has a long history of cooperation with government officials who have been accused of crimes, particularly drug crimes and used the power of its office to squash corruption investigations into officials within its ranks.
It is widely believed that a new Attorney General might look into these accusations more deeply rather than brush them aside— and that would be bad for both criminals, and the people entrusted with the power to prosecute them.