The former governor of the coastal state of Cordoba has pleaded guilty to facilitating land theft, displacement and working with paramilitaries in hopes of acquiring benefits during sentencing.
The former governor of Cordoba, Benito Osorio, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, money laundering, deportation, expulsion, forced displacement, destruction of property, and being a frontman. Osorio was appointed by former president Alvaro Uribe but kicked out of office 17 days later for his links with paramilitaries.
Osorio confessed to having participated in the displacement of 100 families during 1997 to 2007 as President of Cordoba’s rancher’s association.
As President of Cordoba’s rancher’s association, Osorio presided over the displacement strategies and the rural takeover plans of the paramilitaries. Osorio knew of the paramilitary’s acquisition of 1,500 acres in Cordoba to bury bodies there. Osorio even knew where the AUC paramilitary leader, Carlos Castaño set up his headquarters, according to El Tiempo newspaper.
As governor, Osorio took over 16 properties with the help of paramilitary boss Salvatore Mancuso, according to Caracol Radio.
Osorio also ratted out the President of Fedegan, Jose Feliz Lafaurie, according to El Tiempo newspaper. Fedegan is perhaps Colombia’s most powerful and influential agricultural guild, representing the nation’s cattle ranchers and land owners.
According to Osorio, he facilitated a meeting between Salvatore Mancuso and Lafaurie to discuss the election of former Prosecutor General Mario Iguaran. After the meeting, Lafaurie emailed Osorio various documents, listing supreme court judges, telephones, and political backers, for him to give to Mancuso.
Mancuso’s testimony corroborated Osorio’s allegations when he said that Lafaurie had asked the paramilitary group to support the election of Iguaran as Prosecutor General. After Iguaran’s successful election, Mancuso and the AUC allegedly received $2.8 million.
Osorio was discovered to have been the primary political pawn for paramilitary bosses Salvatore Mancuso and Freddy Rendon alias ‘El Aleman.’ According to Semana news magazine, Osorio was also linked with Sor Teresa Gomez, who was a family member of the Castaño brothers and convicted for the murder of Yolanda Izquierdo, a land restitution leader. Osorio mentioned the close relationship he had with Gomez.