The image of Salvatore Mancuso is seen on a screen during a drama where paramilitary forces dismembered some of their victims on May 9, 2023 in the municipality of Villa del Rosario, northern Colombia.
Former paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso admitted before a Colombian peace court on Tuesday that the right-wing squad he led in the late 1990s had orders to assassinate then-leftist leader and now President Gustavo Petro.
Disbanded in 2006 under an agreement with the government of right-wing Álvaro Uribe (2002–2010), these bloody armies sow terror in their battles with blood and fire against left-wing guerrillas and operate with the support of some members of the public force. ,
Petro, a former M-19 insurgent who laid down his arms in 1990, and other leftist leaders were “part of the military objectives” of the so-called United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), Mancuso acknowledged in his final four – Appearance before the Court of Special Jurisdiction (JEP) in charge of investigating the worst crimes of the Colombian conflict.
“The same Foreign Minister (of) today, Álvaro Leyva, the same President, Gustavo Petro, were part of the military objectives,” he declared.
By videoconferencing from a prison in the United States, the former paramilitary chief assured that a director of the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), the intelligence unit at the time, ordered him to assassinate the current president.
The DAS was disbanded in 2011 due to a spying scandal on judges, opponents and human rights defenders under the Uribe government.
Mancuso was extradited in 2008 while giving his version of crimes committed in the framework of the peace process with the AUC. The Colombian-Italian ex-commander was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison in the US and now wants to take advantage of the JEP with a view to obtaining benefits such as alternative prison sentences upon his return to Colombia.
– Reaction to his statements –
President Petro responded to the former paramilitary’s statements on Twitter.
Colombia’s first leftist president said, “According to Mancuso, José Miguel Narvaez of the DAS ordered my assassination. The DAS hired my bodyguards. We received prior information about actions against me without help from governments and we managed to stop them.” ,
The magistrates of the JEP heard the former commander in the department of Córdoba (North) as well as a group of victims from the region who had directly encountered the violence of the paramilitary forces.
Diamelis Bello, originally from the Sucre department where the AUC operates, told AFP he hoped the former paramilitary chief would give more information about the armed group’s crimes in order to “heal and forgive”. ”
At the end of Mancuso’s final hearing the woman said, “We have heard what we already knew (…), we wish he would say more. We know he knows and he has more to say.” Something new.”
The 58-year-old ex-paramilitary completed his appearance before the JEP on Tuesday and will have to present evidence to support his version before June 30. The court, which emerged from a 2016 peace deal with FARC guerrillas, will then decide whether Mancuso is eligible to take advantage of this special justice.
For this, the JEP requires him to “demonstrate that he acted as a ‘hinge’ or connection point between the paramilitary forces and the public forces during the internal conflict”.
The former commander emphasized the complicity of the police, the military, the political class and a section of the press in the crimes of the AUC.
About 30,000 paramilitary forces laid down their rifles in 2006. According to the Historical Memory Center, they are responsible for more than 94,000 deaths during the long civil war in Colombia.