Olimpo de Jesús Sánchez Caro, also known as Cristobal, Chucho, Roble, Matacuras, and El Viejo, fought with armed guerilla forces in Colombia against the government of the Republic of Colombia from 1986-2008.
Sánchez Caro is most notorious for his role as the leader of the Guevara Revolutionary Army (“Ejército Revolucionario Guevarista”, ERG), an armed guerilla group that he co-founded along with his brothers, Ephraim Sánchez Caro and Lizardo Sánchez Caro, in 1993.
In his capacity as Commander of the ERG, Sánchez Caro was reportedly responsible for over 400 war crimes and crimes against humanity including numerous murders, kidnappings, forced displacements, forced disappearances, recruitment of child soldiers, and gender crimes, including forced abortions.
Before establishing the ERG, Sánchez Caro and his brothers were affiliated with the Ernesto Che Guevara Front of the National Liberation Army (“Ejército de Liberación Nacional”, ELN), an armed guerilla group opposing the Colombian government. Sánchez Caro acted as the military leader of the group. Following alleged rifts with the ELN over the group’s direction, Sánchez Caro, his two brothers, and 17 additional ELN guerrillas separated from the ELN and formed their own guerilla group, the ERG, on 18 October 1993. Most of the original ERG members were Sánchez Caro family members or friends of the Sánchez Caro family. Olimpo Sánchez Caro ascended as the leader and commander of the new group.
Under Sánchez Caro’s command, the ERG swelled from its original 20 members to somewhere between 120 and 200 at the height of its power. The ERG reportedly engaged in numerous violent acts that constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes during its war with the Colombian government from 1993 – 2008. The ERG operated primarily in the Antioquia, Chocó, Valle de Cauca, Risaralda, Caldas, and Tolima departments.
Some of the atrocities allegedly committed by the ERG include, but are not limited to, the following:
– The murder of five policeman in Bagadó, Chocó in 2000;
– The kidnapping of a Doctors Without Borders physician in July 2001;
– The kidnapping of four Swiss citizens in August 2001;
– The murder of four farmers in Tado in 2001;
– The kidnapping of a Colombian man in 2002 who was eventually killed after a ransom was not paid;
– The detonation of a bomb in the village of Guaduas that killed four soldiers and one civilian;
– The kidnapping and subsequent killing of a woman named Luz Amparo Velez and her nephew, a child, from Ciudad Bolívar, Antioquia as well as three other persons from nearby areas during 2004;
– The murder of 18 policeman in 2005; and
– 17 forced abortions within the ranks of the ERG.
Additionally, Sánchez Caro reportedly personally ordered the killing of five of his own ERG fighters, including a 14-year-old pregnant girl, for alleged disciplinary offences.
The ERG, still led by Sánchez Caro, surrendered to Colombian government forces and laid down their arms on 21 August 2008 after eight months of negotiation. The Peace and Justice Law, Colombian legislation designed to demobilise paramilitaries by offering amnesty for most surrendering guerilla fighters, made the surrender possible.
Under the provisions of the Peace and Justice Law, Sánchez Caro and the entire ERG fighting force, which had dwindled to just 45 members, surrendered to the Colombian government and turned in 31 assault rifles, an M60 machine gun, a mortar, an MGL grenade launcher, two 9mm pistols, ten communication radios, two anti-personnel mines, 22 grenades, a computer, and 5,981 rounds of ammunition.
Sánchez Caro voluntarily accepted responsibility for numerous crimes as part of the surrender deal and subjected himself to prosecution by the Colombian National Prosecution Unit for Justice and Peace.