Former Colombian Paramilitary Leader Salvatore Mancuso Repatriated, Hopes for Cooperation in Unsolved Crimes

Former Colombian paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso has been repatriated to Colombia after serving a drug trafficking sentence in the United States. Mancuso, who arrived in Bogota on Tuesday, was quickly taken into police custody upon his arrival. Authorities hope that he will cooperate with the justice system and provide information about hundreds of crimes committed during the civil unrest in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Mancuso, now 59 years old, was a former leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a paramilitary group founded by cattle ranchers. The group fought against left-wing rebels during one of the most violent periods of Colombia’s long-standing armed conflict. Human rights organizations and government officials are eager for Mancuso to shed light on numerous crimes, including massacres and forced disappearances, for which he has confessed co-responsibility.

Having been imprisoned in the US since 2008 for drug trafficking, Mancuso has expressed his readiness to become a “peace advocate.” In a statement distributed to the media upon his arrival, he stated, “I come to continue with my commitments to the victims, but at the same time, I come to put myself at the service of a peace agenda that will prevent Colombia from being an eternal factory of victims and collective pain.”

Mancuso will remain in prison in Colombia, where he has been judged responsible for over 1,500 acts of murder and disappearances. He aims to secure a reduced sentence or possible release from prison through Colombia’s transitional justice system, established by the 2016 peace deal. Victims of the nation’s conflict hope that Mancuso’s cooperation will help uncover the truth behind hundreds of murders and forced disappearances perpetrated by paramilitary fighters, including extrajudicial executions and burial in mass graves.

During hearings with Colombian judges, including some conducted via teleconference while in US custody, Mancuso has discussed his interactions with politicians and the potential involvement of high-ranking officials in war crimes. However, his extradition to the US in 2008 had impeded ongoing investigations.

Rodrigo Londono, also known as Timochenko, a former leader of the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel movement and current chairman of the FARC political party Comunes, extended his hand to Mancuso, urging reconciliation and the revelation of all responsibilities related to the armed conflict. President Gustavo Petro, who assumed office in August 2022, has made the pursuit of “total peace” a central focus of his administration. He recently signed a significant truce deal with the National Liberation Army (ELN), which was extended in early February.

Author: CrimeDoor

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