Colombia: paramilitary chief says he supported Uribe's election
Through a closed-circuit satellite link from a US federal prison in Virginia, where he is facing drug trafficking charges, former Colombian paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso asserted to a panel of his country's Supreme Court in Bogotá April 29 that his illegal forces supported Álvaro Uribe's election in 2002. He is now the fourth paramilitary chief to make the claim. Mancuso also declared that he participated in a plot against former Supreme Court magistrate Iván Velásquez, who was the leading judge investigating the Uribe government's collaboration with paramilitary groups.
Mancuso also stated that he met with leading presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos twice in 1997, as part of a plot to overthrow then-president Ernesto Samper. Santos, he said, arrived at one meeting accompanied by prominent emerald dealer Victor Carranza, long suspected of being himself a paramilitary leader. (Semana, Bogotá, April 29)
Despite guarantees, only six of the fourteen former top paramilitary leaders who were extradited to the US two years ago have been able to participate in Colombia's Justice and Peace process. Colombian officials working on the Justice and Peace process told Caracol Radio that the extradition of the paramilitary leaders has hampered the program's efforts to offer justice to victims of paramilitaries.
According to the sources, of the fourteen extradited men, only Mancuso, Diego Fernando Murillo AKA "Don Berna", Miguel Angel Mejia Munera AKA "El Mellizo", Guillermo Pérez Alzate AKA "Pablo Sevillano" and Ramiro Vanoy AKA "Cuco Vanoy" have been able to testify via satellite from the US.
Last week, Colombia's Supreme Court denied the US extradition request for Freddy Rendón Herrera AKA "El Alemán", the justices saying they want Herrera to answer to Colombian justice first and make reparations to his victims. In March, Colombia decided to deny the extradition of El Alemán's brother, Daniel Rendón Herrera AKA "Don Mario", on the same grounds. (Colombia Reports, May 13)