Joaquin Perez, dubbed “the devils’ lawyer” for defending some of Colombia’s biggest paramilitaries, said in an interview with Uno that multinational companies had an interest in maintaining ties with Colombian paramilitary groups in order to control their workers.
“These companies, Drummond, Chiquita, Del Monte, had interests in having this class of protection and help,” Perez said. “They could control the labor force, they could better control salaries, they could control better the terms of any labor contracts.”
This contradicts statements by Chiquita, which claimed that its payments to armed groups were extortion.
According Uno, Perez said that Jaime Blanco Maya, arrested in early September on suspicion of ordering the 2001 murders of two Drummond unionists, had links to the CIA and to the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. Blanco Maya’s alleged dealings with Perez’s client, paramilitary leader Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias “Jorge 40,” are also being investigated.
In the interview, Perez commented on the debate over the impunity enjoyed by demobilized Colombian paramilitaries. “In reality the impunity wasn’t created by the United States, it was created in Colombia,” Perez said.
The U.S. and Colombian governments have faced criticism for the practice of extraditing demobilized paramilitaries to the U.S., where they stand trail for drug offenses rather than for massacres carried out in their home country.
The Justice and Peace program for demobilizing paramilitary fighters, which seeks to provide reparations and the truth about crimes to victims of paramilitary violence, has been accused of offering impunity to criminals. Under the program, 32,000 members of illegal armed groups have been demobilized, the majority of whom are from the AUC, and participants receive a maximum sentence of eight years in prison.
“Be it good, be it bad, or be it wrong, this was a project approved by the country and signed into law, and now it’s being criticized when it is being applied to these men,” Perez said. “The law has been in effect for several years and if the country doesn’t accept it, they can always change it.”
Perez is the legal counsel for top paramilitary leaders such as Salvatore Mancuso and “Jorge 40,” and accompanies them to legal proceedings in both Colombia and the United States. “Jorge 40” has been extradited to the U.S. but his case has been removed from the public record, which likely signifies that he is cooperating with authorities.
Perez was also the topic of a recent documentary on RCN.