San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Colombian’s Residency Probed

Héctor Orlando Martínez, a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), arrested in the Pacific port town of Puntarenas last week and wanted for allegedly participating in atrocities in his homeland, received Costa Rican residency papers in “record time” in 2000, police officials said.

“It was a clear case of corruption.Here or anywhere else in the world,” said Ministry of Public Security Fernando Berrocal.

Martínez arrived to Costa Rica in May 2001, married a Tica and obtained a residency permit in less than a week, according to Immigration Director Mario Zamora.

Berrocal said his ministry will investigate the issuing of the residency permit, a process he said usually involves five or six people in the General Immigration Administration.

Berrocal also said an investigation will be launched into the issuing of permits to other Colombian nationals since 2000.

An agent for the international police agency Interpol, who asked not to be identified, said officials suspect other members of the FARC are almost certainly in Costa Rica. Berrocal said members of the Public Security Ministry planned to visit Colombia to establish a better working relationship and greater cooperation with Colombian authorities in an effort to better police drug trafficking through Costa Rica.

“Our southern border has become the first frontier for cocaine coming from Colombia,” the minister said.

Martínez, 38, is wanted for his alleged part in the killing of approximately 140 people in Colombia, including the massacre of 47 police in 1999, said Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) spokesman Francisco Ruiz.

He also allegedly participated in the massacre of Bojaya on May 2, 2002, in which insurgents fired on a church where the local population had sought refuge, killing 84 people, including 46 children.

The Marxist-Leninist FARC, Colombia’s biggest rebel group, has been fighting the Colombian government more than 40 years. Martínez, who owns two fishing boats in Puntarenas, is believed to be a high-ranking member of the guerrilla organization that directed the trade of drugs for arms for the FARC in Central America, said an Interpol press release.

Interpol agents, acting on an international warrant issued by the Colombian government, tracked down Martínez in Puntarenas.

Agents from Interpol, OIJ and members of the Immediate Action Unit, a special weapons and tactics unit, participated in the high-profile arrest Aug. 10.

The 20-person police team found Martínez walking outside his modest home in El Cocal de Puntarenas, on the outskirts of the port town.

Wearing white shorts, a white shirt and sandals, Martínez went quietly after he was forced to the ground and handcuffed.

He was taken to a holding cell in OIJ headquarters before being transferred to a maximum-security unit in La Reforma penitentiary east of Alajuela, northwest of San José.

During a visit to Costa Rica two weeks ago, members of demobilized right-wing militias, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, asked Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to help negotiate an end to Colombia’s four-decade-old war (TT, Aug. 11).

Arias, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his part in negotiating an end to “Central American civil wars in the 1980s, said he would get involved only if all parties in the conflict agree.

The FARC offered to begin peace talks with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe if he halted U.S.-backed anti-insurgent operations, but the fighting has continued.

The paramilitaries and the leftist rebels, as well as Colombia’s other leftist guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army, are accused of financing themselves with theproceeds from cocaine trafficking.


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