A former Colombian general who was President Alvaro Uribe’s chief of security from 2002 to 2006 was sentenced to 13 years in prison in federal court in Virginia on Friday for providing material support and resources to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, a designated terrorist group.
In a plea deal earlier this year, Mauricio Santoyo Velasco admitted that he collaborated with the AUC, a right-wing paramilitary group that has engaged in kidnapping, drug trafficking and assassinations.
Authorities said Santoyo used his positions of power — including as the head of Colombia’s anti-kidnapping unit — to feed the AUC sensitive information about arrests, ongoing wiretaps and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency operations.
“Former General Santoyo took bribes from terrorists — plain and simple,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a release. “The quid pro-quo here was money for information — and for terrorists, information is power. Mr. Santoyo abused his position in law enforcement, he broke the public trust with the people of Colombia and he empowered a terrorist organization.”
Uribe, who left office in 2010 with record approval ratings, is credited with dramatic security gains during his government, but has been plagued by corruption and domestic spying scandals involving close associates.
Santoyo was chief of anti-kidnapping police in Medellin from 1996-1999, coinciding with Uribe’s governorship of Antioquia, of which Medellin is the state capital. From 2000 to 2002, he commanded an elite anti-terrorism task force. In 2008 and 2009, he was police attache to Italy.
Santoyo’s alleged betrayal coincided with a huge influx of U.S. aid under Plan Colombia to fight drug traffickers and leftist rebels and included Uribe’s decision to make peace with the far-right paramilitaries represented by the AUC. The AUC was classified as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States in September 2001. Colombian authorities blame it for thousands of killings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.