Former paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso has been convicted of plotting the murder of 77 in the 1997 Mapiripan Massacre.
Appearing via video link from a U.S. prison in Virginia where he is currently serving time for drug trafficking, Mancuso pleaded guilty to charges of terrorism, kidnapping, and conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.
The incident, in the central department of Meta, saw paramilitaries slaughter villagers with chainsaws and machetes, leaving bodies strewn around the streets and more than 70 people missing. Many of the bodies were chopped up and disposed of in a river, making it impossible to determine the exact death toll.
Following questions of the victims’ attorney, Luis Guillermo Perez, Mancuso refused to answer whether then-governor of Antioquia, former President Alvaro Uribe, was involved in the paramilitary expansion from Antioquia to Meta where the massacre took place.
“They have killed 3,000 demobilized. They have removed the security measures for my family so that this truth doesn’t come out. [There is] a lack of security for my family and the members of the AUC. It has become an unbearable pressure. Each time we were to make a statement about the head of the former government or persons linked to the government they would take the security away from my family,” said Mancuso.
The former AUC head did apologize to the victims’ families and expressed regret that he could not be present in Colombia to provide more accurate data on the details of the event.
The Mapiripan Massacre became a controversial subject last year when the current Colombian government filed a request to overturn a 2005 ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, claiming only 10 people had been murdered.
The Colombian government claimed the number of victims in the 2005 ruling had been massively overestimated and that many relatives of “false victims” had come forward seeking compensation.
This appeal was rejected in November 2011.