Colombia’s ‘Emerald Czar,’ Long Linked to Far-Right Militias, Dead at 77
A loquacious, gravel-voiced man of humble origins but deep political connections, Carranza fought three power struggles for control of the sector beginning in the 1960s.
The fighting left nearly 5,000 people dead while Carranza amassed a private army, say the authors of a 2012 biography, leftist Rep. Ivan Cepeda and Rev. Javier Giraldo, a Jesuit priest.
In the 1990s, Carranza began to extend his holdings outside the central state of Boyaca where the emerald industry is concentrated, buying properties in the eastern plains around Puerto Lopez.
It was there that he allegedly deepened support for the paramilitary militias that are blamed for the lion’s share of killings in Colombia’s decades-old dirty war.
In 1998, Carranza was arrested and charged with kidnapping and forming illegal right-wing militias, which prosecutors have blamed for more than 50,000 killings over the past three decades.
Colombia’s chief prosecutor at the time, Alfonso Gomez Mendez, told The Associated Press in an interview that he had no doubt Carranza was one of the paramilitaries’ principal creators and backers.
Yet after three years in jail Carranza, whose lawyers included a former Supreme Court justice, was freed and the charges were dropped.