Colombia’s president has fired the country’s head of armed forces after he verbally maligned prosecutors and suggested action be taken against them in audio recordings obtained by a local news magazine.
Prosecutors investigating corruption by senior officers in allegedly inflated military contracts recorded General Leonardo Barrero’s phone conversation with a colonel, who was imprisoned over possible links to extrajudicial killings, the Semana news magazine reported.
Barrero said such prosecutions were “a bunch of crap” and suggested that he and others “organise a mafia” to discredit the officials involved.
President Juan Manuel Santos made it clear that Barrero was being fired for ‘disrespectful remarks’ and not for corruption, although four generals were forcibly retired on Tuesday in connection with the contracts scandal.
Semana said hundreds of hours of audio recordings in its possession showed that senior military officers received kickbacks of up to 50 percent on deals, Reuters news agency reported.
“After 39 years wearing the camouflage uniform with pride, serving the country, the Military Forces, and especially, the National Army, I leave with the tranquility and satisfaction of having acted according to the principles and values that govern military life,” said Barrero in a statement on Tuesday.
General Juan Pablo Rodriguez was later announced as Barrero’s replacement.