Para-Military Leaders Extradited to US

· Violence

Mansuco and DEAThe news became a surprise for many in and outside Colombia: 14 of the Para-Military top leaders were extradited to US to be prosecuted by crimes of drug trafficking in courts of Miami, New York, Washington and Houston.

Salvatore Mancuso, one of the main former leaders of AUC, with Colombian DEA authorities to extradition.

Last Monday May 12 the goverment of President Uribe took the decision after concluding that the influence and power of the Para-Military top leaders still the same from their prisons leading operations, crime organizations and drug traffick dealings. In agreement with the American Embassy, the Colombian goverment coordinate the extradition to the US with the guarantee that their money will be used for the compensation of the Para-Military victims.

El Espectador Newspaper wrote that some officials from Casa de Nariño said that the killing of more unionist leaders was one of the reasons to motivate the decision, since the judge found that Para-Militaries have been involved in the killings.

The operation to proceed the extradition started early in the Tuesday morning in the three prisons where the top leaders were: La Picota of Bogotá, Itagüí prison and La Modelo of Barranquilla. The name of the 14 Para-Military leaders are Diego Fernando Murillo (known as Don Berna), Francisco Javier Zuluaga Lindo (known as Gordolindo), Manuel Enrique Torregrosa, Salvatore Mancuso Gómez, Diego Alberto Ruiz Arroyave, Guillermo Pérez Alzate (known as Pablo Sevillano), Ramiro Cuco Vanoy, Juan Carlos Sierra (known as El Tuso), Martín Peñaranda, Edwin Mauricio Gómez, Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, Jorge 40, Hernán Giraldo Serna, Nodier Giraldo and Eduardo Vengoechea.

President Uribe declared by television on Tuesday midday that the Para-Military leaders were rather drug traffickers and they did not repair their victims, while continued their criminal operations from prison.

The director of the National Police of Colombia said that the authorities will finish for this weekend the intervention on properties of the extradited Para-Military leaders in order to guarantee the compensation of their victims. Naranjo said to Caracol Radio Broadcasting that Jorge 40 was the only leader to react in a strong way and that it was very easy to prove that they were leading crime activites from prison.

Reactions to the surprising extradition came immediatly from different sources:

For Colombia Journal, the extradition will undermine the Para-Politic prosecution process:

“With some of the most prominent paramilitary leaders, including AUC chief Salvatore Mancuso, now in US prisons, it will prove much more difficult for prosecutors to effectively investigate the links between politicians and the right-wing death squads. Claudia Lopez, an independent investigator, acknowledged this new reality when she declared, “They’ve taken away all the witnesses.” (Garry Leech: Extradition of Paramilitary Leaders Undermines Para-Politic Investigation, Colombia Journal, May 13, 2008)

For the Colombian goverment in general the Para-Politic process will continue, the 14 Para-Military leaders are not the only witnesses and they will be available anyway for any requirment, while other Para-Military rank leaders will have more freedom to testify in the process without the pression of their former leaders.

In Paz y Progreso, the official site of the Extradited Para-Militar leader, Salvatore Mansuco, the former Para-Militaries denied that the 14 leaders were involved in criminal activites from prison, but they stated that the demobilized Para-Militaries will continue with the cause of peace and justice in Colombia.

In Anncol, a site that gives news about the Farc guerrillas, the extradition of the Para-Military top leaders show that the Colombian judicial system can not proceed their own criminals and pointed out that it is a failure of the democratic security program of President Uribe.

The official site of Casa de Nariño has the declaration of President Uribe that was presented by television on Tuesday midday. The declaration was a short intervention where President Uribe said that the extradition was because the top leaders did not fulfill the conditions they promised in the peace process like the compensation to the victims and invited the other former Para-Militaries involved in the process to say the true and follow the compromises they promised during their demobilization process.

The site of Casa de Nariño has also a short declaration to the public opinion about José Miguel Vicanco, the Americas Director of Human Rights Watch who previously, according to the statement, criticized the Colombian goverment when this one did not follow an extradition process of the Para-Military top leaders to the USA, but not criticized the Colombian goverment because it extradited the Para-Military top leaders to the USA.

The Human Rights Watch considered that the extradition will undermine the Para-Politic prosecution and the process of justice for victims of these ilegal military groups in Colombia. José Miguel Vivanco said to the HRW News:

“The good news is that these paramilitary bosses could now face serious jail time for some of their drug crimes. The bad news is they may no longer have any reason to collaborate with Colombian prosecutors investigating their atrocities against civilians and their collaboration with high-ranking government officials.”

The consecuences of the surprising extradition will come soon. As it was something waited by nobody (nobody thought it would happen), it is very early to give any conclusion. What is important to underline is that it opened a new door in the process of peace and justice in Colombia. The former Para-Military leaders will be prosecuted only by their criminal actions of drug trafficking to the US, not by their crimes against humanity. However, there is something that could be real: it is easier to press US courts to open a process to an international tribunal for crimes against humanity to Para-Military leaders, than to press a country that is going through a process of peace. It is also early to say if the Para-Politic prosecution will be affected by good or by bad.

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