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The Colombian ambassador to the United States defends himself against the accusations of a former paramilitary chief

Former paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso arrives extradited to the United States on May 13, 2008.Alan Diaz / AP

It is not the first time that the former paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso, one of the protagonists of the war in Colombia, affirms that by extraditing him to the United States 12 years ago “they took the truth” about the relations of high politics with the self-defense groups in the country.

Now, in the face of the extradition request made by the Colombian Government, Mancuso has reiterated that he was silenced because he related how “officials close to the Government of President Álvaro Uribe, such as Francisco Santos, today Colombia’s ambassador to the United States,” among others officials, “were people very close to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.” The pronouncement was made known through a letter that Mancuso sent to the former peace negotiator, Álvaro Leyva Durán, and has already generated the ambassador’s response.

Through a statement posted on Twitter, Francisco Santos He responded that Mancuso’s assertions are the same as those of 13 years ago, when the paramilitary said that the current ambassador in Washington founded a self-defense bloc in Bogotá. “The Attorney General’s Office has been investigating these claims for 13 years and has not found any merit for any type of accusation by the justice,” said Santos, and announced that it is evaluating legal actions against the paramilitary.

From a jail in the United States, where he tries not to be deported to Colombia, Mancuso assured that the truth has not been known due to a lack of political will. “I remember when I publicly denounced the rearmament of some demobilized people and they called me a liar, when I confessed that 35% of members of Congress were people supported by the AUC, they treated me crazy; when I told about parapolitics, they denied it; I revealed that I was living proof of what I called state paramilitarism at that time, “he said in the letter, released this Monday. Indeed, after their complaints, the Supreme Court of Justice investigated and convicted about 60 congressmen.

A bloody boss

Born to an Italian father, who was one of the most bloodthirsty leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), he served a sentence for drug trafficking in the United States and his defense requested to send him to Italy, alleging that he has no security guarantees in Colombia. Another letter, released by the agency Associate Press, and dated December 2008, it states that US prosecutors had already warned the Colombian authorities that Mancuso and the members of his family “could be in serious danger,” as a consequence of the fact that he had “appointed different high-ranking military personnel, officials and politicians who provided material and support to the criminal activities of the self-defense groups ”.

The deportation to Colombia of the former paramilitary chief, who is accused of directing 139 massacres in which 800 people were murdered, among other crimes, has become a political mess for the government of Iván Duque. First, it became known that the Colombian authorities made several errors in extradition requests, which put Mancuso one step away from being sent to Italy. Later, the government of Donald Trump decided to stop that deportation and it was learned that he would be sent to Colombia.

There is still nothing firm, although the Duque government is confident that Mancuso will return to the country. “His obligation to tell the truth in the courts of Colombia, he must respond and return to the country and by doing so he must be deprived of liberty,” said Peace Commissioner Miguel Ceballos on Monday.