<span>Photograph: Javier Galeano/AP</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/1WGtihQLTX3R2VZoPnZsaQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNQ–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_guardian_765/c71136e908c6194d3f27c6f1e27f53bb” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/1WGtihQLTX3R2VZoPnZsaQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNQ–/https://media.zenfs.com/en-GB/the_guardian_765/c71136e908c6194d3f27c6f1e27f53bb” /> Photograph: Javier Galeano/AP</p>
<p>The son of a notorious death squad leader has been appointed to run the Colombian government’s programmes for victims of the country’s long civil war, prompting fury among survivors.</p>
<p>Jorge Rodrigo Tovar was this week put in charge of a scheme for compensating victims of the conflict – many of whom were terrorised by his father, Rodrigo Tovar, better known in Colombia as “Jorge 40”.</p>
<p>During the late 90s and early 2000s, the elder Tovar led the Northern Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (or AUC) – which was responsible for a string of massacres and the murder of hundreds of civilians along Colombia’s Caribbean coast.</p>
<p>In February 2000, militiamen under his command tortured and dismembered over 60 peasant farmers in the isolated village of El Salado, in one of the worst single acts of violence in the five-decade war. Victims – including a six-year old girl and an elderly woman – were stabbed, beaten and strangled to death.</p>
<p>Iveth Jiménez’s father, Víctor Manuel, a union leader, was forcibly disappeared in 2002 by members of Jorge 40’s militia. She was aghast at the news that his son was now coordinating the government’s response to victims.</p>
<p>“They have no right to play with the memory of all those that Jorge 40 has murdered, tortured, disappeared and displaced,” said Jiménez. “It’s offensive, it’s insensitive and it’s plain wrong.”</p>
<p>Her sentiments were echoed by Luz Marina Hache, the spokeswoman for Movice, a group representing victims of crimes committed by state agents.</p>
<p>“What justice can victims hope for with this announcement?” Hache asked.</p>
<p>The conflict between the Colombian state and leftist rebel groups including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (or Farc) left 260,000 dead and displaced over 7 million. State-aligned paramilitary groups, like the one led by Jorge 40, committed some of the bloodiest atrocities of the 52-year civil war.</p>
<p>In 2004, Jorge 40 participated in a controversial demobilisation programme and confessed to about 600 crimes, though he took no blame for any murders. Evidence on his laptop showed that the AUC often collaborated with members of the government.</p>
<p>Jorge 40 was extradited to the US in 2008 and is serving a 16-year sentence for drug trafficking offenses. He did not face any charges in American courts related to his militia’s conduct during the war.</p>
<p>Related: Colombia’s hidden victims finally get their day in court</p>
<p>Little is known about the younger Tovar, 30, a lawyer who has participated in several events with former members of the Farc, who themselves demobilised in 2016 following a historic peace deal.</p>
<p>Speaking to local magazine Semana, Tovar said he has no intention to resign from his new job. “Everything that is going on fills me with the promise,” he said, “to show that I do good work and that the work can speak for me.”</p>
<p>Some observers saw his new post as evidence of reconciliation in action. Political scientist Katherine Miranda described his appointment as “an example of reconciliation and peace”, tweeting: “He shows that hatred and useless wars cannot be inherited, instead turning the page and moving on.”</p>
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