Wikileaks cables released on Sunday reveal the events that led to the breakdown of the peace process between the government and the demobilized AUC.
According to a cable dated December 7, 2006, the announcement the previous day that 59 demobilized and jailed paramilitary leaders were calling off the then three-year-old peace process was triggered by the then President Alvaro Uribe‘s decision to transfer them to the maximum security prison in Itagui.
Previously, the men had been incarcerated in “La Ceja” medium security prison. However, Uribe decided to move them on December 1, 2006, amid rumours that the men were plotting an escape attempt.
In a separate cable, it was relayed that the group enjoyed significant benefits in La Ceja with each former paramilitary having a cellular phone, unlimited Internet access and up to 50 visitors per day.
Director for the OAS Mission to Support the Peace Process (MAPP/OEA), Sergio Caramagna, told U.S. officials in November of his belief that the men were growing resentful of the government and were better off kept in La Ceja.
After the prison move, Caramagna asserted that the peace process on the whole was in a critical condition despite there being a faction of ex-paramilitaries still committed to it.
In addition to the move, the spokesman for the 59, Ivan Roberto Duque, alias “Ernesto Baez,” cited the government’s failure to comply with their commitments under the process as a reason for their withdrawal.
These commitments included keeping former paramilitary leaders in low to medium security prisons, compliance with the Justice and Peace Law (JPL) and the offer of political status for ex-leaders.
Although Peace Commissioner Carlos Restrepo met with the men to reiterate the government’s commitment to the process, he was greeted with a tense atmosphere and only allowed to speak for five minutes before they walked out.
Prior to the cessation of the peace process, political commentators attributed Uribe’s motive for the move as being his desire to insulate himself and his political allies from the growing parapolitics scandal. His worry over the scandal has been revealed in a cable from November 2006.
Although the withdrawal by the ex-leaders from the peace process didn’t prove fatal, it suffered considerably on two later occasions in 2008 and 2010.
In May 2008, 14 of the AUC’s most prominent leaders were extradited to the U.S. without the approval of Colombia’s Supreme Court. This came at a time when they were still engaged in confessing crimes before the Supreme Court, thus leaving their testimony incomplete and effectively silencing them.
Some of the top AUC members continued testifying from their U.S. prisons. Others refused further cooperation with Colombian justice because of alleged threats against their families.
In September 2010, seven extradited leaders were taken off public record, therefore completely eliminating the chance of their victims securing compensation or access to the truth.
It is not known whether the men are still in prison, have received lenient sentences, or have been freed.