The extradited leader of the defunct paramilitary group AUC, accused a former governor of having links to paramilitaries and of aiding the founders of “Los Pepes” — the notorious vigilante group that helped hunt down Pablo Escobar.
The imprisoned ex-AUC chief, Salvatore Mancuso, claimed that Hugo Aguilar, governor of the northern Colombian department of Santander from 2004 to 2007, “helped Los Pepes in the war [against] Pablo Escobar.”
Mancuso said that he “heard so many times” from several paramilitary leaders that Aguilar helped Carlos Castaño [one of the founder of Los Pepes] and alias, “Don Berna” in their quest to kill Colombia’s most famous criminal.
Testifying before Colombia’s Supreme Court of Justice via teleconference, the imprisoned paramilitary leader went on to claim that the ex-governor met with the AUC to discuss “military and political support” for his 2003 electoral campaign.
“Yes he was there…they presented me to him at the [meeting]…I entered and I greeted him,” said Mancuso.
“I know they were discussing the theme of regional support because those were the comments I heard when I entered the meeting,” said Mancuso.
Aguilar first came to fame in December of 1993 when he, as a member of the police search bloc, was filmed presenting the dead body of Pablo Escobar to the press and claiming that he personally killed the infamous drug lord. His large national profile helped lead to his successful gubernatorial campaign in 2003.
Yet in 2011, Colombia’s Inspector General banned Aguilar from holding public office due to his ties with paramilitary death squads. The former governor became just one of dozens of Colombian politicians convicted for their involvements in a scandal known as “parapolitics.” However, two witnesses who testified against Aguilar have since recanted their statements.
The ex-governor and alleged Pablo Escobar-killer has denied all accusations against him and the new Mancuso allegations are no different.
“I helped fight Los Pepes,” he put it.
As a demobilized paramilitary of the AUC, Mancuso was initially a beneficiary of Colombia’s Justice and Peace Law, under which, demobilized paramilitaries would only receive a maximum of eight years in prison, provided they confess their crimes and permanently surrender arms. In 2008 Mancuso lost these rights after he was extradited to the United States on drug trafficking charges.