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Jose Miguel Arroyave Ruiz aka "Arcángel" (August 10, 1954 in Amalfi, Antioquia – September 19, 2004 near Puerto Lleras) was one of the top paramilitary leaders and commander of the centaurs bloc "Bloque Centauros", a 5,000- strong private militia active in the sparsely populated grasslands of eastern Colombia, he was also a powerful figure in the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia AUC, an umbrella organization bringing together right-wing paramilitaries from all over the country. Arroyave apparently acquired the leadership of the centaur bloc by paying a fee of $6 million, and he was well known for being a ruthless fighter against guerrilla groups and for being able to evict this other type of rebel groups and take control of their territories. The centaurs block was one of the largest and powerful group of the AUC, and were very organized to the point that they even had a running web page that is no longer in service (www.bloquecentauros.org)
Arroyave was one of the AUC's team of negotiators when talks began with the government on demobilizing the paramilitary organizations which have proliferated over the past two decades. They were formed in the first instance to fight against the left-wing guerrilla armies which have dominated large parts of rural Colombia since the 1960s He was very close to the Castaño family and had control of the capital bloc "Bloque Capital" which controlled the militia in Bogotá.
Arroyave was close to the Castaño family, small landowners from northern Colombia who founded the first paramilitary group in the early 1980s. Miguel Arroyave was from a humble rural background, and claims to have been a childhood friend of Carlos Castaño's older brother, Vicente Castaño, with whom he went to school in a small village near Amalfi, in Antioquia department, in the 1960s. He said that he completed his education at one of Bogotá's leading schools, and later became involved in a gold-mining venture, from which he made some money.
Arroyave was arrested in 1999, and spent two years in detention, while he tried to convince the authorities that his wealth had not come from illegal activities. He appears to have been involved in the processing and shipping of cocaine to the United States - though he always denied it - in cattle-rustling and in smuggling rackets. But nothing was ever proved against him.
Carlos Castaño, one of three brothers, later founded the AUC and exerted a degree of influence over most of the 20,000 or so paramilitaries operating in Colombia. But his control had been waning in his last few years, and earlier in 2004 the AUC split over the conduct of negotiations with the government of President Álvaro Uribe, whose crackdown on the left-wing guerrillas had impressed some paramilitary commanders. In April, 2004 Castaño disappeared before the talks could begin, following an assault on his headquarters by gunmen apparently dispatched by rival commanders. He has not been seen since, and some human remains were recently discovered, apparently proving that he was in fact assassinated.
The remaining AUC leaders subsequently appointed a panel of negotiators, including Arroyave, who now seems to have suffered the same fate as Castaño. He was killed on September 19, 2004 near Puerto Lleras, Department of Meta in the heart of his home territory, during a break in talks with the government, which have been going on since May in a safe haven in Cordoba, far to the north. The vehicle in which he was traveling with four other men was hit by rocket-propelled grenades. The government's chief negotiator, High Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo Ramírez, explained that Arroyave had gone back to Meta province to organize the immediate demobilization of his forces.
There are plenty of possible candidates for the murder of Arroyave, who had a great deal of blood on his hands. Perhaps the most likely culprit is "Martin Llanos", leader of another paramilitary band in the eastern plains, with whom Arroyave had been involved in a protracted and bloody feud for more than a year, but he had been in conflict too with other paramilitary chiefs over control of territory, drug-trafficking routes and protection rackets, which continued even while the peace talks were going on. Another possibility, favoured by army intelligence, is that Arroyave was assassinated by a hit squad from the main left-wing guerrilla organisation, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia FARC.
The AUC leadership, however, has laid the blame on a rival within Arroyave's own Centauros organization: they have named Pedro Oliverio Guerrero Castillo aka "cuchillo" as the killer, and described him and his associates as "enemies of peace and opponents of the demobilization process in the eastern plains". It has been recently uncovered that Guerrero was working under the orders of Daniel Barrera aka "El loco", a notorious drug lord in Colombia who is also awaiting official charges from the United States government on drug smuggling into this country.