Extradited drug trafficker Juan Carlos Sierra, alias “El Tuso” has testified he paid lawmakers in 2006 to meet with then-Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo to demobilize as if he was a paramilitary and receive benefits granted to members of the AUC.
A recording of El Tuso’s statement was leaked to news website Kienyke.com.
In the June 2010 recording, El Tuso tells magistrates he paid $32 thousand to former congresswoman Rocio Arias — one of the main promotors of paramilitary interests in congress — to arrange a secret meeting, with the former High Commissioner of Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo.
According to El Tuso, this August 16 meeting took place at the country retreat of congressman Miguel de la Espriella’s, who at the time of the meeting was highly controversial after the publicizing of the Pact of Ralito, a treaty between politicians and paramilitaries. De la Espriella later was convicted for his ties to the AUC. In the meeting, Restrepo said he would cooperate with El Tuso’s wish to be included in the demobilization process, the drug lord said.
Restrepo admitted meeting El Tuso, but says he didn’t know beforehand he was going to meet with the drug lord and didn’t know the house belonged to De La Espriella. De la Espriella told Caracol Radio that the former Peace Commissioner did know who he was going to meet.
According to el Tuso, the ex commissioner arrived by helicopter owned by Guillo Angel, a pilot investigated in 2008 for money laundering. Restrepo said that he arrived in a presidential helicopter which he always travelled in.
According to Restrepo, former AUC member Ernesto Baez “arranged a meeting to discuss subjects related to the demobilization and he gave me the coordinates and I arrived at the site by presidential helicopter. He discussed some problems and the subject of Sierra. Then I realized that I was at the finca of Miguel de la Espriella and Sierra appeared, but I said there was nothing I could do.”
“I don’t know if Miguel de la Espriella or other politicians [pressed for El Tuso’s inclusion in the demobilization] but I did not like the informality with which the situation was handled,” the former Peace Commissioner said.
According to De la Espriella, El Tuso was included in the AUC demobilization process days after the meeting even though he never had been a member of the organization.
Sierra is currently detained in a federal prison in Warsaw, Virginia. He was a key witness in the case against former Senator Mario Uribe, the cousin of former President Alvaro Uribe, and has claimed that Santiago Uribe, the brother of the former president was involved in drug-trafficking.