The name of Alfredo Garavito has the effect of immediate terror for Colombians. Its mere mention recalls the story of one of the worst serial killers the country has ever had. In 2000, he was sentenced to 40 years (the maximum penalty in Colombia) for the murder and rape of 189 children, between eight and 16 years of age, crimes that he committed in less than ten years.
Every so often, the possibility of his being released from jail slides through WhatsApp chats, rumors or, as in the latter case, news in the press. The TV show The Informants revealed a letter from May this year in which the National Penitentiary and Prison Institute (Inpec) he asked a judge to grant Garavito parole.
The then director of the high security prison where he is being held, known as La Tramacúa, attached a series of documents to support his request. Among them, a letter stating that Garavito “has observed good behavior during his time in prison.”
In the same program, it was reported that the judge denied the release of the serial killer because he did not meet all the requirements and had not paid the damages to the families of the victims. However, the scandal – in a country that is strongly divided in the face of life imprisonment for child rapists – was served and even President Iván Duque ruled on it. “I want to say that I have deep indignation with that possibility that someone suggested, that that beast of Garavito be released from prison. He is a bandit, criminal, stinky rat who has only hurt children, ”said the Colombian president.
Life imprisonment for rapists is one of Duque’s flags and had been approved by Congress in 2020. However, just over a month ago the Constitutional Court overturned that law, which had been criticized as punitive populism from various social sectors.
The High Court considered that this measure implied a setback in the re-socialization of inmates and in criminal policy. In addition, that Congress had exceeded its functions because by approving life imprisonment it directly affected an axis of the 1991 Constitution that is based on human dignity. “The proscription of the death penalty and life imprisonment constituted a starting point of the 1991 Constitution. They are substantial prohibitions to our social rule of law,” the Court indicated last September.
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That is why the Garavito case tends that debate. The confessed serial killer acted in 11 of the 32 departments of Colombia and even carried his trail of terror to Ecuador, where he raped and murdered four children between 1990 and 1999. He used to disguise himself as a homeless person, a monk or a person with a disability to approach foundations who worked with children, most of them humble and with fine features.
One of the most memorable cases occurred in Pereira, in the Colombian coffee region, where the bodies of at least 20 children were found. That was the trigger for the capture of the man who began by admitting those murders and, at the end of the interrogation, had already confessed to being the author of 189 homicides.
Garavito has paid three-fifths of his sentence and has reduced five years for studies or work in prison. However, after the scandal, the current director of Inpec, Mariano Botero Coy, was vehement that the serial killer will not be released “under any circumstances.”
In a video released this Monday, Botero added that they sent that documentation as a procedure that they must comply with as prison authorities. So, for now, as long as the dreaded Garavito cannot pay the reparation to the hundreds of victims, he will continue in La Tramacúa in Valledupar.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.