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Colombian defense minister resigns amid scandal over massacre of 8 minors

COLOMBIA CONFLICT | 07 de noviembre de 2019

Colombian Defense Minister Guillermo Botero (c) on Nov. 5, 2019, attends a Senate session to discuss a censure motion against him after it became known that he failed to reveal the military bombardment of a camp of dissident FARC rebels in which eight children died. EFE-EPA/Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

Bogota, Nov 6 (efe-epa).- Colombian Defense Minister Guillermo Botero on Wednesday presented his resignation after the day before it became known that he hid from the public the military bombardment of a camp set up by dissidents from the now-demobilized FARC guerrillas in which at least eight children died.

"Today, in a meeting with the president of the republic to analyze the current political situation, it was agreed that the most appropriate thing was to present my resignation from the post of national defense minister," Botero said in an official statement issued by his office.

Botero's resignation comes a day after a Senate debate was held regarding a censure motion presented against him for failings in his security and defense policy.

During the parliamentary debate, Sen. Roy Barreras, with the Party of the U, which provided key support for former President Juan Manuel Santos, revealed the military's bombardment in early September of a camp of dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas in Caqueta province in which seven children died, including a 12-year-old girl.

The Attorney General's Office on Wednesday raised the death toll to eight minors killed in the operation, a figure that authorities had not divulged despite the fact that after the operation they had reported that deaths had occurred in the attack.

After the firestorm sparked by the release of that information, Botero met with President Ivan Duque, to whom he presented his letter of resignation in consideration of the fact that it is his "duty as minister of defense to have an appropriate read on the political climate."

However, in his letter he did not mention the case unveiled by Barreras and confirmed by the AG's Office and he declared that "the enemy of Colombia is drug trafficking."

"More coca means less peace, more coca means less life, more coca means less forest, more coca means less youth, more coca means less work, more coca means less business, more coca means less democracy," said the minister in his letter, which was made public and in which he makes no mention of the controversial bombardment.

However, he congratulates himself for the fact that "for the first time, in more than five years, we have managed to reduce the growth trend," referring evidently to drug trafficking.

After the parliamentary debate, the Senate leadership set a new session for Nov. 13 in which lawmakers will vote on the censure motion against Botero, a move supported by a majority of legislators. Given the fact that the motion would no doubt pass, thus making Botero the first Colombian government minister to be removed by censure, he opted to resign.

Botero had served as defense minister since the start of Duque's administration in August 2018, but he has been plagued by assorted scandals during most of that period.

Just a few minutes after Botero made public his resignation, Duque announced on his Twitter account that he had named Gen. Luis Fernando Navarro, the current commander of Colombia's military forces, to serve as defense minister on an interim basis.

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