In an interview with a local radio station, a woman who identified herself as Mr. Uribe’s wife said the two had been married 18 years and had three children, and that he had left home one day after he told her that he had “a very good job opportunity.”
She said her husband had been investigated in the false positives case, but had been exonerated.
Colombian officials said that some of the accused individuals left Bogotá as early as May, and flew to Panama before traveling to the Dominican Republic and then to Haiti. Others arrived in the Dominican Republican in early June, and then traveled to Haiti.
Colombia has a large military that has spent decades fighting left-wing guerrilla groups, paramilitaries and drug traffickers, often with U.S. funds and training. Over the years, thousands of young Colombian men have been conscripted into the military, but they often leave service with limited professional options.
This has made them attractive to people looking for hired guns. By 2015, for example, the United Arab Emirates had secretly dispatched hundreds of Colombians to Yemen to fight in the country’s violent civil conflict. Many stayed because of the high pay, according to past New York Times reporting, with the Colombians receiving salaries of up to $3,000 a month, compared with about $400 a month they would make at home.
“When an economic underclass is taught how to fight and how to conduct military operations and little else, those skills don’t transfer readily to the civilian sector except in the private security realm,” said Paul Angelo, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who studies security issues.
On Friday, Gen. Luis Fernando Navarro, the commander of Colombia’s army, said that the accused individuals had left the military between 2002 and 2018. He said the men were involved in “mercenary activities,” and that their motives were “purely economic.”
Natalie Kitroeff and Anatoly Kurmanaev reported from Mexico City, Catherine Porter from Toronto, and Julie Turkewitz from Bogotá, Colombia. Reporting was contributed by Julian Barnes, Eric Schmitt and Adam Goldman from Washington; Sofía Villamil from Cartagena, Colombia; Edinson Bolaños from Bogotá, Colombia; Simon Romero from Albuquerque, N.M.; Andre Paulte and Milo Milfort and Harold Isaac from Port-au-Prince.