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Former Paramilitary Soldier Extradited to US Requests Uribe Appoint Him “Peacemaker”

By Dialogo
June 15, 2009

Bogotá, June 11 (EFE). - Former paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, who was extradited to the United States, asked Colombian President Álvaro Uribe to appoint him as peacemaker, while offering to mediate before the FARC and ELN guerrillas. According to a statement published in the daily El Tiempo website, Mancuso tells Uribe in a letter: "please allow me to move forward with my determination to be a man of peace.” In the letter from Washington dated March 22, 2009, the former leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) states that he is “the mirror on which the 'Canos,' 'Jojoys,' FARC, ELN, emerging groups, and 'don Marios' reflect.” Mancuso refers to Alfonso Cano, the chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); to drug trafficker and paramilitary soldier Daniel Rendón Herrera, aka "Don Mario," who as captured in April by Colombian authorities; and to Jorge Briceño Suárez, aka "Mono Jojoy," the FARC military chief. As well as other sectors, Mancuso says that the conflict won’t be ended “by the use of weapons or by the wiping out the adversary; on the contrary, it will be fulfilled through dialogue and political solutions regarding transitional justice.” He says that, as peacemaker, he could “mediate and hold political dialogues with all of them if he has political and government support.” Furthermore, he says that the connections between the Colombian Army and the paramilitary will lead to a stage “more traumatic and painful than that of parapolitics.” On the other hand, he criticizes President Uribe’s administration’s handling of the paramilitary demobilization process, since “the emerging groups are the sub-product of the failure of the “Ralito Agreement” negotiations, of not being able to manage the different stages of the peace process.” He points out that the territories he surrendered when demobilization occurred were taken by the so-called “emerging groups,” which constitute “new self-defense, the same old one, or a combination of both.” Mancuso also stated that he understands why Uribe’s government extradited him back in 2008, since, otherwise, he and his family would have already been murdered.” In the letter, the former soldier agrees with the referendum for President Uribe’s second re-election, and he points out that “if he had been asked, he would have joined.” Mancuso and other paramilitary leaders demobilized by the end of 2004 in a peace process in which 31,000 members surrendered their weapons and accepted the benefits offered by the Act of Justice and Peace. Mancuso, along with other 13 former paramilitary chiefs, was extradited to the United States in May 2008, where they were summoned by American courts that charged them with various crimes including drug trafficking.