Senator Rubio asks US to stop extradition of “peace manager” Mancuso

Former AUC commander Salvatore Mancuso during a an audience with JEP. Screenshot/JEP

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio is urging the Biden administration to reject an extradition request from the Colombian Government, after President Gustavo Petro recently appointed the former paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso as a “peace manager”.

Senator Rubio justified his decision based on “no credible assurance that Mancuso will serve the sentences imposed by the Colombian courts.” In a letter addressed to U.S Attorney General Merrick Garland, the Senator expresses his “concern over the ongoing effort to ensure accountability and justice for human rights abuses in Colombia.” Rubio’s move could potentially allow the warlord to evade further imprisonment for crimes committed in Colombia as a senior commander of the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

Mancuso completed a 12-year sentence for cocaine trafficking in 2020, but remains in U.S. custody at a Georgia maximum security prison, due to a last-minute decision by Colombia to reverse a U.S. order that would have sent him to Italy, where he also holds citizenship. Petro named Mancuso a peace emissary to facilitate the disarmament of other illegal armed groups operating in the country, among them the largest drugs trafficking cartel Autodefensas Gaitánistas de Colombia (AGC), or Gulf Clan.

“To allow Mancuso to not only walk free in Colombia, but also represent the Colombian government in negotiations with drug traffickers currently working to flood our community with narcotics, would be an insult to the thousands of Colombians who are victims of Mancuso’s crimes,” stated Senator Rubio.

In 2008, former right-wing President Alvaro Uribe extradited Mancuso, and 13 other warlords, to the U.S. to face drug charges. Mancuso, however, still faces over 20,000 criminal charges for atrocities committed between the late 1990s and early 2000s against civilians, confirms the Colombia’s Attorney General.

Petro’s decision to name Mancuso as “gestor de paz” to consolidate his “total peace” policy has received fierce criticism from political opponents, given a slate of other appointments as “peace envoys” from First Line vandals who stoked social unrest during the National Strike, to convicted drug traffickers, and members of the FARC dissident group “Iván Mordisco”.

Mancuso has claimed that he was extradited to the U.S “to be silenced” given key information he has on the role of how important right-wing politicians financed AUC death squads.

“I shall continue my unwavering cooperation with the justice system, as I have done for the past 17 years. My commitment to truth, reparations, and non-repetition remains steadfast. Accompanying Colombia’s transitional justice system, both judicially and extrajudicially, is a responsibility I hold toward the victims,” stated Mancuso recently to magistrates of JEP – the Special Jurisdiction for Peace tribunal.