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Special Forces Brigade (Brigada de Fuerzas Especiales)

The Special Forces Brigade is comprised of 4 battalions. Its soldiers are highly trained, including airborne and counterinsurgency operations. Colombian special forces were increasingly called on to defend vital infrastructure resources from terrorist attack, taking a more offensive approach against narco-terrorist assets and personnel, and rescuing victims of kidnappings and assaults carried out by guerrilla groups.

Their mission was to carry out irregular war operations in the depths of the enemy territory and the occupied territory itself, for this purpose they are assigned means of air transport for the fulfillment of their mission. Its headquarters are located in Fort Tolemaida but they depend directly on the General Command of the Armed Forces. Special Forces of Colombia are highly recognized in the world for their professionalism in search, rescue, and special operations.

Gaming the system and cheating to earn bonuses can become endemic in organizations. A tragic example is provided in the “false positives scandal” where Colombia’s armed forces, from 2002 to 2010, killed several thousands of civilians and dressed them as guerillas. These cold-blooded murders and “extrajudicial executions” were exploiting an incentive scheme by inflating body counts, leading officers and soldiers to get money, promotions, vacations and other benefits.

Human rights groups warned repeatedly that Colombian soldiers were luring poor young men with the promise of jobs, summarily executing them and then dressing the bodies to appear as FARC combatants in order to obtain higher pay, time off, promotions, or other benefits. I also expressed concern about this. Instead of investigating, top Colombian officials, including the President, responded by accusing the human rights groups of being FARC sympathizers. After the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed these crimes and it was revealed that they were the result of official army policy, the government acknowledged the problem but the verbal attacks against human rights defenders and journalists who wrote articles about the issue continued.

Army Chief of Staff General Montoya resigned under pressure due to the false positives scandal and was “punished”, as too often occurs in Colombia, by being appointed an ambassador. General González Peña replaced General Montoya. Not long earlie, General González Peña commanded the 4th Brigade in Antioquia which has one of the worst rates of reported extra-judicial killings.

The army’s 15th Mobile Counterinsurgency Brigade, which had been accused of extrajudicial executions by the U.S. Department of State’s 2008 human rights report, was dismantled in January 2009. The 23rd Mobile Counterinsurgency Brigade, which replaced it, had 1,400 members who reportedly had received training in human rights. These actions did little to dampen the false-positives scandal.

The Procuraduria ordered the dismissal of Special Forces Brigade Commander Colonel Medina Corredor -- as well as Captains Luis Castillo and Hiznardo Bravo and sub-lieutenant Juan Ordonez -- from the Armed Forces on 31 August 2008 due to their involvement in the murders of three union members in Arauca on August 3, 2004. The Procuraduria found that Medina exceeded his authority in approving the military operation whose objective was to kill, not capture, the three unionists. The disciplinary body also determined that the military officials later approved a cover-up to disguise the murders as deaths in combat. The Procuraduria has forwarded its evidence to the Fiscalia which will decide whether to bring criminal charges against the officers. The USA halted assistance to the Special Forces Brigade in July 2008 pending GOC action against Medina.

By May 2009, prosecutors had recorded 900 cases of extrajudicial killings, involving 1,708 victims (1,545 men, 110 women, and 53 minors). The number of implicated members of the security forces had grown to 1,177, of whom 15 were sentenced to 30 years of prison for disappearing 11 youths in the Bogotá district of Soacha.

Widely considered to be among the finest Special Forces units in Latin America, the Junglas consist of 500 specially selected and trained policemen divided into three regional companies (Bogota, Santa Marta, and Tulua) and at each location are supported by Colombian Antinarcotics Police (DIRAN in Spanish) assigned aircraft. Jungla tactical equipment, much of it supplied by NAS as part of Plan Colombia, has provided them a distinct tactical advantage over narcoterrorist threats. Jungla individual equipment models those used by U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers, and includes latest generation weapon systems, encrypted communications, and protective equipment to enhance survivability. Jungla personnel also undergo regular human rights training and vetting, both as part of local courses and U.S. training.

The specialized training, high alert status and inherent air mobility assets of the Junglas make them a natural choice for time-sensitive and complex HVT missions, as well as for protecting vulnerable manual eradicators. Their efforts have helped lead to the capture of leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), National Liberation Army (ELN), Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), and other major narcotrafficking groups in recent years. The Junglas often execute these HVT missions jointly with the Colombian military, and in particular the Colombian Air Force.

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Page last modified: 05-05-2021 19:19:15 ZULU