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Carlos Castaño Gil
Born (1965-05-16)May 16, 1965
Died April 16, 2004(2004-04-16) (aged 38)
Place of birth Amalfi, Antioquia
Place of death San Pedro de Uraba, Vereda el Tomate.
Allegiance United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)
Rank Bloc commander and United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia leader
Unit Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Cordoba and Uraba

Carlos Castaño Gil (May 16, 1965 – April 16, 2004) was the founder of the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá (ACCU), an extreme right paramilitary organization in Colombia. Castaño and his brothers Fidel and Vicente founded this group (and its previous incarnations) after their father was kidnapped and killed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in association with other enemies or victims of the guerrillas. The ACCU later became one of the founding members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

AUC leader

In a 1996 interview with writer Robin Kirk, later published in More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs and America's War in Colombia (PublicAffairs: New York, 2003), Castaño acknowledged that the men under his command committed 'excesses', but defended them as necessary in Colombia's conflict. "Look, the guerrillas hide themselves within the civilian population, they manipulate the population". In a September 1997 interview in El Tiempo newspaper, Castaño admitted responsibility for the Mapiripán massacre.[1]

In 1997, Castaño later founded an umbrella organization of paramilitaries operating in Colombia known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The AUC is currently fighting a brutal war against the FARC in which many civilians have been killed. The AUC has been accused by human rights organizations of committing atrocities, and it has openly admitted to its involvement in the drug trade. The AUC is listed by the US Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Castaño was convicted in absentia of the murder of journalist Jaime Garzón, and sentenced to 38 years in prison.

Accusations of narcotrafficking

On September 24, 2002, the United States Department of Justice unsealed an indictment against Castaño which accused him of trafficking over 17 tons of cocaine into the United States. Castaño announced that he would give himself up for trial in the United States and would accept his participation in numerous crimes, though he resented his being personally linked to the drug trade.

Castaño had become isolated from the organization according to some observers, as he seemed to become relatively critical of the AUC's increasing association with narcotraffickers in recent years and was more willing to compromise with the Colombian state, and thus the remaining AUC commanders might have turned their backs on him.

Castaño stated on Colombian television in 2000 that 70 percent of AUC funds came from narcotrafficking.[2]

Disappearance and death

Castaño was killed on April 16, 2004. Acting AUC commanders claimed initially that there was an accidental exchange of gunfire between his bodyguards and a separate group of paramilitary fighters.

Other sources within the group and among its dissident factions claimed that he and his men were captured and tortured before being executed and then buried by order of other AUC top leaders (perhaps his own brother Vicente Castaño and Diego Murillo AKA "Don Berna"), who had become increasingly close to narcotraffickers and their trade. Colombian investigators found a makeshift grave and an unidentified body (yet apparently not Castaño's) near the supposed area of the events. Those same sources alleged that the bodies of Castaño and his other companions were dug up and taken to other locations before the investigators could arrive.

The possible death of the AUC co-founder remained in the air and was the subject of wild and rampant speculation. One of the rumours, dating from June 1, 2004, stated that unidentified diplomatic sources told the AFP agency that Castaño may have been spirited away to either Israel or Egypt, via Panama, allegedly with U.S. assistance. No specific reasoning or details regarding this claim where produced and the parties allegedly involved separately denied their participation.

Sources from the AUC and other local militant factions continued to dispute the exact whereabouts of Carlos Castaño. His personal and financial connections between narcotraffickers and other sectors of society could have allowed for their possible collaboration in his conspicuous disappearance or murder. Despite these claims, the truth regarding Castaño's exact condition remained unknown.

On August 23, 2006, Colombia's Attorney General publicly ordered the capture of his brother Vicente Castaño and seven other individuals, accusing them of being involved in Carlos Castaño's apparent death. Alleged witnesses to the crime stated that Castaño's body was apparently dismembered and incinerated.[3][4]

Castaño's skeleton was recovered from a shallow grave on September 1, 2006 and identified through DNA testing by the Colombian government authorities. His brother's second lieutenant named Jesús Roldán AKA "MonoLeche", a former Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación) guerrilla who later joined the paramilitaries, confessed to his murder and led authorities to the grave.

Popular Culture

Is portrayed by the actor Mauricio Mejía as the character of 'Adolfo Aguilar El Halcón' in TV series El Cartel. David Moreña portrays Castaño as the character of Lucio Moreno in the TV series Escobar, el patrón del mal. In TV Series Castaño is portrayed by the actor Julian Roman in TV Series Los Tres Caínes.

See also


  1. US Department of State, Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Washington DC, 1998.
  3. El Tiempo. "Fiscalía ordenó captura de José Vicente Castaño por la muerte de su hermano Carlos." August 23, 2006. Available online. Accessed February 1, 2007.
  4. El Pais. "Vicente Castaño habría matado a su hermano."Available online. Accessed February 1, 2007

Journal articles

  • McDermott, Jeremy "Colombian paramilitary leader murdered.", Janes Intelligence Review; June 2004, Vol. 16 Issue 6, pp8–9

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