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| 5/31/2011 10:00:00 AM

The sweet voice of death

This is the story of a young man that seemed like a promising popular musician, but was actually hiding his real profession: he was one of the most dangerous hitmen of Bogotá.

“You were lucky that I was caught without my gun. Otherwise, I would have killed at least two or three of you, and I would not have let you take me alive”. With this challenging phrase Carlos Valencia responded to the large group of police that arrested him on Wednesday, May 25, at the exit of a local bar in the south of Bogotá.

Valencia is a thin, short man who appears to be inoffensive. Therefore, many of the people that witnessed his arrest did not understand the huge police operation to catch him, which included 15 members of the Special Operations Group (GOES), eight members of the Criminal Investigation Section (SIJIN) and two more from intelligence. But just the need of all this men speaks of the danger that represents this criminal. The amazing thing is that Valencia is not a complete stranger, although many will be shocked when they know his true history.

With only 25 years, Valencia has appeared on several national television programs, in which he was presented as a promising popular musician. Some of his music videos are among the most viewed on the internet, and he was hired in several bars in the capital city for small concerts. Also, on several occasions, he was the opening act for well known artists of the genre. Valencia’s popularity began to rise in various sectors. Many politicians hired him to make presentations as part of their campaigns. For all, Valencia was just a young man with a good voice and a promising future in music. Obviously, no one was aware that this talented singer had a double life.

Valencia was born in Cartagena del Chairá, Caquetá. When he was young he was recruited by the guerrillas, and by the age of 13 he was already part of a front. About three years ago he decided to leave the guerrilla and moved to Bogotá. His ‘career’ began singing in cockpits and nasty bars in the south of the city, especially in the area of Ciudad Bolívar. He began to be known as a singer, but he also promoted his other ‘skills’. He joined a criminal band in that area of the capital, formed by demobilized guerrillas and paramilitaries who extort money from traders and carriers saying that they were part of the Black Eagles, a dangerous paramilitary group.

While the singing career of Valencia was rising, and he was recording videos and compact discs with romantic songs, he also began to be known in the underworld for his cold blood for crime. At the same time he was invited to television programs, in which he presented himself as young romantic singer.

The name of Valencia was in sight of police investigators six months ago, following a series of operations carried out in the capital against a hundred bands. As they were dismantling and arresting criminals of all kinds, some of them began to refer to authorities the existence of the 'Soloist', the alias of Valencia, and many of his crimes, including dozens of murders whose perpetrators were a mystery to the city authorities until that time.The police began investigating Valencia with skepticism, because some doubted that the young singer, with public activities and relatively known, would be behind murders, extortions, arms sales and so on

With the progress of the investigation, police realized that not only he was the criminal they had been told, but that he was even worse and could be responsible for a spate of killings, among other serious crimes that have shaken the city. For months, they were devoted to follow him day and night and to document and prosecute all his activities, most of which are recorded. “That man died for being and idiot, he declined to give me the money for good and there he layed”, Valencia says in one conversation that he had two months ago with his wife, when he had just killed a man at the exit of a grandstand. “The man was lying there on the platform, but hey, the important thing: what are we going to eat ? Did you save me meat?” he asked to his wife in that same conversation.

“He worked for everybody. The merchants, guerrillas, former paramilitaries, drug dealers and even other criminals who needed some work asked for him”, one of the officers who participated in the investigation told SEMANA “The range of 'services' offered was very wide. Practically runs through all the Penal Code. He trafficked weapons, mainly grenades, he threatened, extorted and also took advantage of his experience with the guerrillas in the use of explosives”, the official said. He tried to use that experience, for example, less than a month ago when he put a car bomb with 20 kilos of explosives into a recognized transportation company in Bogotá that had refused to pay extortion. “At that time we were over him and we took all necessary measures to prevent this attack”, the researcher said.

Although Valencia had gained some recognition as a singer, the reality is that this activity was not permanent, much less a source of income. "He could break out singing in a bar or a cockpit where he was paid 200,000 or 300,000 pesos (100 or 150 dollars) and then came out as if he was going to a second job to commit a murder. That is what we realized. After committing the crime, he usually called the person who hired him and gave details about how he left everything”, one of the researchers said. He also claimed that Valencia rarely failed. One of the few times that he was not as effective as usually happened three months ago.

A well known businessman, whose name SEMANA declines to disclose, engaged the 'services' of Valencia to commit murder. After studying his victim, the ‘Soloist’ determined that the most effective way was to throw a grenade while he was in a facility in the south of the city, as indeed happened. But things did not go as planned. “Brother, one thing. That son of a bitch did not die. He is alive, but is in (the hospital) Meissen. But do not worry, I am coming down there to kill him”, says one of the parts of the conversation between Valencia and the employer who hired him. “The charge for every murder varied according to the victim. Sometimes Valencia earned 200,000 or 500,000 pesos (100 or 250 dollars). But at other times we realized that he had committed murder for 'free' because he was doing a favor to a friend or customer”, says the officer, who claims that Valencia may be related to investigations of not less than forty homicides in Bogotá in the last year. The authorities have documented that he also did 'works' in Neiva and Villavicencio and was even recruited for a 'job' in Madrid, Spain, where he was going to travel on July 12.

Dozens of phone calls, among other evidence, were collected by police investigators. On Thursday, before a judge, Valencia accepted the charges of aggravated conspiracy and extortion, two of the crimes for which he was arrested the previous day. What he does not know is that he will have to go back before a judge again, this time to account for all the murders he carried. When that happens, he will hear a recording, not of his songs, but of the conversations about the crimes he committed.
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