The ex-chief of defunct right-wing paramilitary group AUC said Monday he wants to participate in ongoing peace talks with leftist rebel group FARC, and claims that former president Alvaro Uribe extradited him to keep him silent.
Salvatore Mancuso, formerly the head of the now demobilized United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) told El Tiempo on Monday that he was sent to the US to prevent certain truths from coming to light.
“When we started to confess the truths affecting the president Uribe, or people close to him, and high power in high places, [that] was when he decided to breach the covenants and order our extradition,” Salvatore said in an interview with local newspaper El Tiempo.
In the interview he furthermore stated that the extradition was a mistake, and that his obligation is to tell the truth.
Mancuso was extradited in 2008 and is in prison on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, and financing terrorism.
Mancuso’s version of events echoes claims by other extradited criminals. In June, a former Colombian drug trafficker and paramilitary financier declared that former Colombia President Alvaro Uribe extradited him to the US to keep him from talking about high-ranking officials with paramilitary ties, according to an interview with W Radio.
‘AUC errors can improve peace talks’
The former chief of AUC is convinced that he can contribute to the peace process between the government and the FARC based on his own experiences when AUC demobilized from 2003 to 2006.
In 2012, when the peace talks took its baby steps in Oslo, Mancuso send a letter to President Jose Manuel Santos requesting his involvement in the peace talks.
The former leader and the rest of AUC demobilized under the Law of Justice and Peace, a bill designed by Uribe, sentencing the leaders of AUC for jail time of up to eight years in exchange for the paramilitaries’ disarmament, collaboration with justice and the reparation of victims.
According to Mancuso, such arrangements should also be included in an eventual peace deal with the FARC.
“Prison does not solve anything. Only when the State understands that the peace process is not just a trial stage and takes all the social elements that are necessary to achieve stability into account, will we be able to re conciliate and have peace,” said Mancuso.
Also, Mancuso said that the paramilitaries are “very clear what worked and not” in the process of demobilization, and therefore would be key in areas such as preventing the rearming of demobilized combatants or resurgence of emerging bands, as happened in Colombia when so called BACRIM’s replaced AUC.
Among the errors Mancuso highlights extradition, as applied in his case in 2008.
“Extradition alone is never going to solve the drug problem nor the conflict in which we are engaged,” he said.