BOGOTA – Two agents with an anti-kidnapping unit of Colombia’s DAS security service have been arrested in connection with the slaying five years ago of a union leader in the northeastern city of Valledupar, the agency said in a press release Saturday.
Detectives Norberto Sotomayor Gonzalez and Jose Antonio Riaño Noriega are under investigation for the slaying of unionist Luciano Enrique Romero, the DAS said.
The agency added that a Valledupar prosecutor issued an order for their arrest on murder and criminal-conspiracy charges, noting that the detectives “voluntarily turned themselves in” to prosecutors and are being held in that city, the capital of Cesar province.
DAS said “it will provide all necessary assistance to the relevant authorities with the aim of clearing up (the crime) as quickly as possible, while respecting due-process rights.”
Romero, who headed the local branch of the Sinaltrainal food industry workers’ union, was found dead in a paramilitary-controlled area on Sept. 11, 2005, a day after having gone missing in Valledupar.
At the time, Sinaltrainal said that Romero had been found “tied up, tortured and with more than 46 stab wounds.”
At the time of his death, the union leader had been waging a court battle to secure his reinstatement at Swiss multinational Nestle’s plant in Valledupar.
Romero, who had worked for the company for 20 years, was fired in 2002 after a strike to demand better working conditions. He had also received numerous death threats and had been placed under an Inter-American Human Rights Commission protection program.
Right-wing paramilitaries, tens of thousands of whom demobilized in recent years as part of a peace process with President Alvaro Uribe’s administration, are blamed for scores of massacres of suspected rebel sympathizers and for the murders of journalists and labor activists.
Amnesty International said in a 2007 report that in 2005 “around 49 percent of human rights abuses against trade unionists were committed by paramilitaries and some 43 percent directly by the security forces.”
The organization said “just over 2 percent were attributable to (leftist) guerrilla forces.”
DAS’ image has been battered over the past year by an illegal wiretapping scandal, with agents accused of eavesdropping on opposition politicians, Supreme Court justices and other high-profile public figures.