Colombia state governor arrested for murder, conspiracy

AFP , Sunday 13 Oct 2013

Local media mentioned that Gomez's bodyguards attempted to prevent the arrest

Colombian agents arrested the state governor of La Guajira for his alleged involvement in three murders and accusations of conspiracy to commit crime, the attorney general's office said late Saturday.

Authorities have linked Governor Juan Francisco "Kiko" Gomez to criminal gangs and right-wing paramilitary fighters in La Guajira, in northern Colombia on the border with Venezuela, deputy Attorney General Jorge Fernando Perdomo told reporters.

He said there was enough evidence to link Gomez to the 1997 murder of Barrancas Councilman Luis Lopez Peralta, as well as the 2000 deaths of Luis Alejandro Rodriguez and Rosa Mercedes Cabrera.

At least three political analysts say that Gomez is behind death threats against them for their work.

One of them, Claudia Lopez, left Colombia due to the threats.

Pressing charges in court against Gomez "can only be guaranteed in Bogota," Lopez wrote in a Twitter message.

A trial in Riohacha or Valledupar, cities in La Guajira, would be useless because "Kiko meddles in the state at will," she claimed.

Local media reported that Gomez's bodyguards attempted to prevent the arrest.

"There were apparently some difficulties with the capture," Perdomo told reporters.

However Gomez will not be moved immediately to Bogota.

"Apparently there are some health problems, so until these are resolved . . . he will not be transferred to Bogota," Perdomo said, giving no further details.

Five separate charges of corruption were also filed against Gomez earlier the week.

The governor has a court hearing to hear the charges in Bogota on October 30, prosecutors said.

Human Rights groups have accused paramilitary fighters, which first formed in the 1980s to battle leftist guerrillas, of committing thousands of heinous crimes against civilians.

The paramilitary groups demobilized between 2003 and 2006 following negotiations with then president Alvaro Uribe. As part of the deal the ex-fighters received legal benefits -- including immunity from prosecution in some cases -- in exchange for truthful testimony about criminal activities and reparations for victims.

Confessions and testimony from former paramilitary members has snared at least 61 ex-legislators and regional or local governors in cases of corruption and murder.

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