Lawyers of the ex-AUC commander “Macaco” said Monday their client would not continue collaborating with Colombia’s Justice and Peace process without guarantees of legal immunity in the United States.
Macaco, whose real name is Carlos Mario Jimenez Naranjo, is currently serving a 33 year prison sentence in the United States for drug trafficking realized during his time as commander of the Central Bolivar Bloc, a subdivision of the larger paramilitary organization AUC.
Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office’s Justice and Peace unit, a branch of the judiciary specialized in Colombia’s paramilitary demobilization process, is currently in the process of recreating the history of the Central Bolivar Bloc, for which reason they need testimonies from former commanders and members.
According to the conflict-monitoring website Verdad Abierta, Macaco expressed concern about informing Justice and Peace regarding issues that could risk prolonging his sentence in the United States.
“He is asking for immunity from the north American justice and for now it has not been given,” said an anonymous lawyer with insight into Macaco’s process to Verdad Abierta.
The lawyer said Macaco would not utter a single word to Colombian authorities without the existence of an agreement of immunity in the United States.
In mid-July, a local branch of Justice and Peace held an open hearing in the city of Medellin with the aim of revealing the criminal activities of the Central Bolivar Bloc. Macaco, whose testimony would have been key to understanding the history of the bloc, declined to participate from his prison cell in Miami, United States.
Under Colombia’s Justice and Peace Law, officially known as law 975 of 2005, members of paramilitary groups can be convicted to a maximum of eight years in prison, given they confess to their crimes and give up arms permanently.
However, in the case of Macaco there existed an extradition request from the United States, meaning other crimes committed by him in Colombia would fall under U.S. jurisdiction, effectively blocking the benefits of the Justice and Peace Law.
Macaco is one of many extradited paramilitary commanders to ask for legal immunity before giving testimony to Colombian courts. For example, Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano, alias “Don Berna,” did not cooperate with Colombian authorities until given immunity as part of his 31 year prison sentence for drug trafficking in the United States.
Don Berna was considered one of the most important paramilitary commanders in the city of Medellin. He and Macaco were extradited to the United States in May 2008.
The Central Bolivar Bloc demobilized with its 2,519 members on January 31 2006.
The Bloc left between 14,000 and 22,000 victims during its 10 years of existence. Under the Justice and Peace Law, victims are defined as those assassinated, displaced and disappeared due to violence by armed actors.