Former drug lord avoids deportation back to Colombia

Juan Carlos 'El Tuso' Sierra (Photo: Diario ADN)

Former drug lord “El Tuso,” who was extradited to the United States in 2008 and testified against former President Alvaro Uribe for paramilitary ties, will not be deported back to Colombia to face further charges.

Juan Carlos Sierra Ramirez, alias, “El Tuso,” was released from a Virginia prison on March 14 of 2013, according to records kept by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, and has been in the custody of immigration authorities since, reported El Tiempo.

Granted a Green Card

Now, just over a year after having been released from prison, he has been granted permission to live and work in the United States, avoiding a return to Colombia, where he would have faced further charges of drug trafficking, financing of terrorism, money laundering and illegal use of communications equipment.

Sierra, who in 2008 was extradited along with 13 other criminal leaders, only served five years in prison, after reaching an agreement with the United States justice system to provide information and collaborate.

“The main objective of the previous government was to generate impunity for the paramilitaries.”

Despite Colombia requesting his extradition, Sierra has successfully argued that were he to return, the security of both himself and and his family would be at high risk on account of the declarations he made to US authorities.

During a forum in Bogota on Tuesday, Colombia’s deputy minister of justice, Miguel Samper, was critical of past decisions to send drug lords and paramilitaries to the United States pointing out that, “this is the serious flaw in sending and extraditing the truth and justice without putting any condition on the government of the United States.”

Impunity

Samper inferred that the Uribe administration — which is credited with achieving the demobilization of many Colombian paramilitary groups such as the AUC — intentionally did not safeguard against possible impunity of paramilitiaries such as Sierra.

“The main objective of the previous government was to generate impunity for the paramilitaries,” he continued forcefully, saying on Twitter that “with this worrisome case, impunity is settled and the extradition of the bosses of the AUC was feigned.”

Sierra was a crucial witness concerning the parapolitics scandal, which involved politicians during the Uribe presidency collaborating directly with paramilitaries.

FACT SHEET: Parapolitics 

In February of 2012, video footage of a six-hour interrogation of El Tuso emerged, where the paramilitary claimed that former President Alvaro Uribe had been involved in a conspiracy with his spy agency DAS, former paramilitary leaders, and relatives, to discredit the country’s supreme court.

MOREUribe involved in DAS, paramilitary conspiracy: El Tuso

In 2011, Colombia’s Supreme Court ordered investigations to be opened against some 60 soldiers, policemen, politicians and prosecutors after testimony by Sierra implicated them in the parapolitics scandal.

MORE‘El Tuso’ incriminates 60 officials in ‘parapolitics’ scandal

The Colombian justice system believes that Sierra has more information on the nexus between politicians and businessmen with the AUC, as well as members of the Armed Forces, which have not yet been unveiled.

However, there is growing concern in Colombia that increasing amounts of extradited paramilitaries and drug lords will find a way to avoid deportation back to Colombia and therefore avoid answering for their crimes.

In an interview with W Radio on Wednesday, Senator-elect Claudia Lopez, who made her journalism career exposing much of the parapolitics scandal, said that preference had been given to the interests of the United States over those of Colombia in the case of Sierra.

The drug lord claimed to be a member of the paramilitary organization, AUC, and demobilized under a false pretense in 2005 via the Justice and Peace law, receiving the mitigated sentencing benefits the law afforded. It was later alleged that the entire “Heroes de Granada” bloc with which he demobilized was in fact a front, posing in order to get benefits from the process.

Sources

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