One of Colombia’s most notorious former paramilitary leaders has publicly apologized to victims of his crimes via video link from his prison in the Unites States, local media reported on Tuesday.
The former leader of Colombia’s now defunct United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group, Salvatore Mancuso, along with 11 other imprisoned paramilitaries, asked for forgiveness from their victims via video link from the US at a hearing held in the city of Cartagena, northern Colombia.
FACT SHEET: AUC
The former paramilitary chief, extradited to the United States in 2008 on drug trafficking charges, sent the message that “if I could turn back time I would avoid the massacres I ordered…my heart is repentant,” to his victims.
The message was delivered at a hearing in Cartagena to identify the damage done by the AUC and the affect they had on their estimated 10,000 victims.
Mancuso was not the only one to send a message of apology. Among the others was Uber Enrique Banquez Martinez , alias “Juancho Dique”, who confessed that the 14 or 15 massacres he took part in still “haunt him at night.”
“The nights are endless, I cannot sleep, I have nightmares where I see myself committing these massacres,” said Martinez Banquez in his message from a prison in the northern Colombian city of Barranquilla.
Mancuso has a long and far-reaching criminal past with proven involvement in drug-trafficking circles, massacres and fraud.
Originally working under the Justice and Peace Law, which offered demobilized paramilitaries alternative sentences of five to eight years in prison in return for information, Mancuso was extradited in 2008 and now has enough charges against him to warrant almost life in prison.
The former paramilitary has testified before a Colombian court to ordering his forces to commit four different massacres — which left 90 civilians dead — and for the murder of 6 people in 1997, as well as the murder of a public defense lawyer in 2003.