ColombiaOne.comColombia newsEx-paramilitary Chief Salvatore Mancuso Already in Colombia

Ex-paramilitary Chief Salvatore Mancuso Already in Colombia


Salvatore Mancuso Colombia
Ex-paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso is already in Colombia – Credit: Colombia Migration

Former paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso is already in Colombia. He arrived yesterday, Tuesday, February 27, two days later than announced, after being deported from the United States, where he has served a 15-year prison sentence for drug trafficking. Mancuso announced in a statement the reasons for his decision to return to Colombia and not to seek “international protection”, as the former paramilitary also has Italian nationality.

Mancuso is subject to two transitional justice systems, that is, special judicial mechanisms to access truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition after periods of conflict where human rights have been systematically violated. In his case, the special judicial regimes are the Justice and Peace court, created in Colombia in 2005 to try demobilized paramilitaries, and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), a court created in 2016 to try crimes of former FARC guerrillas.

In addition, Mancuso will serve as a peace manager, appointed by the Colombian government. In that capacity, he is expected to facilitate the rapprochement of the paramilitary strongholds still operating in Colombia to the peace proposal of President Petro’s government.

Mancuso held in a Bogota jail

After many doubts about Salvatore Mancuso’s criminal situation, upon his arrival in Colombia he was confined in La Picota prison in Bogota. The former paramilitary has shown his willingness to submit himself to the special judicial mechanisms in his country to shed light on some of the horrible events in which he participated during his time as head of one of the most bloodthirsty illegal armed groups.

For Mancuso, both tribunals “are certain and legitimate mechanisms for the definitive closure of the internal armed conflict”. In this sense, he has advocated that Justice and Peace and the JEP “must have the function of a closing court, otherwise we will continue feeding the vicious circle of our violence”, as he argued in his statement.

Salvatore Mancuso Colombia
Mancuso was interned in La Picota prison in Bogota – Credit: DIJIN

Mancuso is being held in the extraditable wing of the Bogota penitentiary, in a cell measuring three by four meters. Unlike other prisoners, he has no contact with other people, as he is isolated due to the high risk to his life. This is due to the denunciations he has made about the actions of the organization he led 25 years ago, and his relations with important Colombian government officials of the time, including former President Alvaro Uribe when he was regional governor in Antioquia, at the end of the 1990s.

The prisoner is guarded by about 64 officers, some of them trained by the U.S. embassy in Colombia. They are in charge of his security, and will watch him 24 hours a day. In addition, there will be five filters, which will make the space where the ex-paramilitary is held inaccessible to anyone intending to make an attempt on his life in the prison.

Peace mediator

Apart from his criminal situation in Colombia, Mancuso has been designated by President Gustavo Petro as a peace manager. With this position of responsibility, he will be able to facilitate the rapprochement of his former paramilitary comrades, who today still commit crimes in Colombia, to the government’s offer of Total Peace.

Mancuso wanted to thank the president for the gesture and, as he said, to honor his word to Gustavo Petro, who “entrusted him with the task of being a peace manager and contributing in specific ways to the realisation of that concept in which I fervently believe, Total Peace“.

According to the ex-paramilitary’s statement, which was made public by Blu Radio, the ex-combatants of his illegal group are willing to conclude the peace signed in 2006, when the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the paramilitary group he commanded, demobilized. In regard to this, he pointed out that “it is a moral duty to Colombian society and to the communities of the territories where we fought this war” to offer the truth of what happened.

Salvatore Mancuso Colombia
Colombia decrees exceptional security measures for Salvatore Mancuso – Credit: Colombia Migration

The truth, without revenge

Salvatore Mancuso also said that his return to Colombia is not aimed at settling scores from the past, as he said he does not have them with anyone. “I commit myself to Colombian society to be an agent of change, to work tirelessly for peace and reconciliation in everything I do. I am not returning to Colombia with any spirit of revenge, I have no pending accounts with anyone. I am here to serve the victims, the State institutions and society in general, so that they will allow me, once again, to be part of it”, he assures in his communiqué.

For his part, former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, directly accused by Mancuso of being aware of paramilitary operations when he was governor of Antioquia (1995-1998), has reacted to the return of the former paramilitary leader, calling him a “liar”. Mancuso claimed to have met with Uribe, during his time as governor, to discuss the criminal actions of his illegal group, a fact that the politician has categorically denied.

It was in fact Uribe who signed Mancuso’s extradition to the United States 16 years ago, during his time as head of state. According to the former president, this decision was made because the former paramilitary “continued to commit crimes from the high-security prison” where he was in Colombia.

“Mancuso is lying. He never met with me. We greeted each other a few times because of my ties to Monteria (capital of the department of Cordoba, where the paramilitary group operated). We had no conversations. In the presidential campaign (year 2002), I refused to meet with him (…) He never entered the house of El Uberrimo (Alvaro Uribe’s personal estate, where Mancuso claims they met),” says the former Colombian president in a video published today on his social networks.

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