Sorry for the silence Macaco’s extradition, pro and con
May 072008


In Sunday’s edition of the Colombian weekly El Espectador, Iván Cepeda – a columnist who is also a leader of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes – wrote the following column about a visit to the city of Montería. The city is the capital of the department of Córdoba, in Colombia’s Caribbean coastal region, which has long been a virtual paramilitary republic, for years strongly under the sway of Carlos Castaño, Salvatore Mancuso, and “Don Berna.”

Cepeda’s column inspired an enraged response from Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, which is excerpted and translated further below.

The Proof is Montería
Iván Cepeda Castro
El Espectador, May 3, 2008

This week I visited Montería for the first time. I did so by invitation of the Union of University Workers and Employees, Sintraunicol. The airport is near the city and adjoins the “El Ubérrimo” hacienda, which is the property of President Álvaro Uribe.

My companions spoke to me of the lawyer José Corena, who has been in charge of the President’s land business, and that of his cousin Mario Uribe [now in jail awaiting trial for collaboration with paramilitaries]. In the same region the Castaños, Mancuso and alias “Don Berna” have lands. A few kilometers away are the sumptuous neighborhoods of the region’s cattlemen and large landowners: El Recreo and La Castellana. In the latter, the Mancuso family has a large mansion. In the city are commercial properties which, everyone knows, belong to the paramilitary chief.

When I ask whether any authority has ordered the seizure of these lands and businesses, those accompanying me laugh. In that same zone are the social club and the open-air restaurants where the local high society meets. They tell me that at the parties one would frequently see the former prosecutor-general, Luis Camilo Osorio. We passed by the La Vittoriana restaurant, property of the brothers Jaime and José Maroso, partners and testaferros (property-holding figureheads) of Mancuso. This government named José to two diplomatic posts: one in Italy, the other in Switzerland. Now the paramilitary groups are led by Doménico Mancuso, cousin of Salvatore.

In the shadow of the bridge that President Uribe ordered to be built, and which goes to his hacienda, on the banks of the Sinú River, thousands of displaced people live in misery. They come from places like Tierralta and Valencia. The Civil Victims’ Committee of the department of Córdoba, Comfavic, is made up of 7,800 families. Many have more than one member murdered or disappeared by the paramilitaries. It is obvious that for anyone who lives in, or visits, the city or its nearby haciendas, it must be impossible to ignore the reality of these crimes. How can they not know that thousands of killings are being perpetrated, or not see the displaced people? How can they ignore who Mancuso and the Castaño clan were in a city in which everything is known and is commented in whispers?

Finally, we arrived at the University of Córdoba. The employees and students have begun a movement to demand the resignation of the current president, Claudio Sánchez Parra. They also demand truth and justice. Since 1995, 19 people belonging to the university have been murdered. On February 18, 2003, Mancuso called professors and employees to Santa Fe de Ralito [where the paramilitary leaders were gathered as they began negotiations with the government], and warned them that if they did not attend they should be prepared for the consequences. Present at the meeting was a delegate from the government, Félix Manssur Jattin. After reading the CVs of the professors, which had been taken from the University’s files, Mancuso introduced them to Sánchez Parra and said to them, “This person here by my side is my friend, and in the University I must have men that I trust.” The new president put Mancuso’s relatives in posts in the University leadership. Even though the Prosecutor-General’s Office and the Attorney-General’s office are carrying out investigations against him, he remains in the presidency. This week the Victims’ Movement will lead a petition of the government and will carry out an international campaign calling for his immediate firing.

Perhaps there are photos, witnesses or recordings of the meetings of the landholders, politicians and soldiers with Mancuso, while thousands of people were being killed or displaced. But beyond these elements of hard evidence, the whole social order, the nearness of the large haciendas and the centers of Montería’s high society show the reality of a criminal power: the city itself is the proof.

Excerpt from “Words of President Álvaro Uribe during the inauguration of the Montería Transportation Terminal
Presidency of Colombia, May 6, 2008

Let me touch on another issue. There are people in Colombia, like Doctor Iván Cepeda. They dress themselves up in the protection of victims.

And the protection of victims serves them as a way to have NGOs that ask for money from the international community.

The protection of victims serves them as a way to instigate the violation of the human rights of those people who do not share their ideas. And nothing happens to them.

The protection of victims serves them as a way to go overseas to discredit the Colombian government and to discredit Colombian institutions.

The protection of victims serves them as a way to say that Montería is a criminal city, without giving the people the right to respond.

The protection of victims serves them as a way to try to recover, in the University of Córdoba, the den of criminality that existed in the past, which we will not allow to be re-established.

The protection of victims serves them as a way to discredit Colombia.

To say to their friends in the international community that the FTA [U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement] must not be approved, that human rights are not respected here, that while we live every day trying to make Democratic Security more effective and transparent, they have no limitations when it comes to violating the human rights of those compatriots who do not share their way of acting and their way of disqualifying those who dissent from them.

So let’s look at this issue. These señores, like Iván Cepeda, have the right to mistreat the honor of, to endanger any Colombian.

And if attention is called to them, if they are disagreed with, if they are contradicted, they immediately go out, in cowardly fashion, to say that the government is putting them in danger. That they have to go into foreign exile. That they are going to speak with some senators to tell them not to approve the FTA, or to send a letter from the international community scolding the President.

Now, I ask those in the international community who always second them, that before taking pity on the crocodile tears of these human rights frauds, they should come and see what is really happening in Colombia: a country that is resolutely making progress toward pluralism, transparency, security and investor confidence.

18 Responses to “Iván Cepeda’s column and Álvaro Uribe’s response”

  1. Paul Says:

    Right on, President Uribe!

  2. Sergio Méndez Says:

    The question is…why such enraged answer from Uribe when Cepeda never touched him in his column? Or is that the truth about Cordoba hurts so much?

  3. jcg Says:

    Uribe continues to lash out in unreasonable ways, to say the least, that do in fact put people in additional danger, even if he mocks it.

    If he wanted to question or reject anything, which he has a right to do, he could but in a more respectful manner, talking about the issues and not about the persons, much less attacking them.

    That is not what Uribe is doing and he is still as irresponsible as always, tragically.

    Sergio: Actually, there are at least three references to Uribe in Cepeda’s text, though the rest depends on who you ask.

  4. Jaime Bustos Says:

    “If you wait, a rat will always lead you to its hole.” — Sayid on “Lost”

  5. Adam Isacson Says:

    It’s worth pointing out that what Uribe said is not as bad as what his advisor, José Obdulio Gaviria, was saying (or what Uribe has said on earlier occasions).

    For the president to be calling his detractors unpatriotic or cynical is certainly intimidating, and reflects badly on him since he didn’t respond to the specific charges. But it’s not as severe as saying – without any proof – that his critics are members or allies of the FARC. In Colombia, people are routinely killed on suspicion of being tied to illegal armed groups.

    So in this case, Uribe is playing hardball politics but not quite crossing the line into implied threats. The question is why he chose to do so now.

    With the capture/killing of the “Twins” and the extradition of “Macaco,” his government could be signaling that it is combating paramilitarism with greater seriousness. The president just blurred that message with these verbal attacks, which leave an impression of petty bullying.

  6. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Adam, agreed, but for your information the twins along with Don Mario are at war with Don Berna, one of Uribe’s favorite paras, which explains why the government was so adamant to get them.

    The “Oficinas” in Envigado (Don Berna’s crime structures) continue to run business as usual and proofs abound as to the paras at Itagui, operating their rackets and having people killed.

    No wonder even Berna might be sent to the US, according to reports by Semana, that give supporting evidence that Itagui’s genocides are “in talks” with the US justice, since some time ago.

  7. Patrick Higgins Says:

    I agree Adam, but how much headway is really being made in regards to human rights? It seems to me that some areas are improving while others are suffering. The bar has been set very high for Uribe by himself, and also his supporting constituents (which are evidently the majority at this point). Indeed, he has had notable military and economic success.

    However, I may sound pessimistic but still I am left wondering, how long will it last? How will the global food crisis and inflation from oil exports with a rising dollar effect Colombia? Adding to this, how profitable will increasing demand from Europe for Colombian cocaine be for armed groups and how will this effect their future militant capabilities?

    Uribe faces great challenges. These challenges are not insurmountable but he must recognize that in the near future he may not be able to ‘ride on’ some of the same successes he is currently championing. ‘Hardball politics’ could run its course more sooner than later if current challenges are not addressed with a perspective of foresight.

  8. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Patrick, I know you have a different point of view, but Colombia won’t be affected by increasing cocaine demand. On the contrary, that would boost its economy.

    Colombia is a carefully and successfully designed narco State, and not only by Colombian native incumbents.

  9. Patrick Higgins Says:

    Surely I am no expert so I really appreciate your insight Jaime.

    -Thank you

  10. Adam Isacson Says:

    Let me walk back two steps from my earlier comment –

    1. Uribe’s speech accuses Cepeda of “cowardice” because international actors complained about José Obdulio Gaviria’s public attempt to link Cepeda to the FARC. Uribe also dismisses the recent letter on this subject from the 63 members of the U.S. Congress. He thus dismisses concerns about Gaviria’s words, which crossed the line between hardball politics and actually threatening someone’s security.

    2. In his other comments, Uribe takes on León Valencia for “failing to give reparations” to his victims as a former guerrilla. (It’s debatable whether Valencia, had he demobilized today, would have had to go through the Justice and Peace process or – like most paramilitary members – would have been immediately amnestied under Law 782.)

    Strange timing – choosing to pick on Valencia only a few days after he publicly denounces a serious death threat from narcotraffickers.

  11. jcg Says:

    Adam: Strange timing indeed, I guess. On the whole, It’s not as bad as what J.O. Gaviria said, but it’s still pretty bad and I wouldn’t exactly feel safe if I were the target of such criticisms.

    Jaime Bustos: Simply calling Colombia a “narco-state”, while it can be explained one way or another, leaves a lot to be desired if it means ignoring that the economy is far more diversified and complex than that, not merely “designed” (which sounds too voluntaristic and monolithic anyways) to be a “narco-state”, and that even cocaine booms do not make the country immune to economic crisis, depending on other factors. Remember 1999.

    Also, about “Don Berna”, it seems that no matter what happens to him you’ll view it as favoritism, whether he leaves (which I don’t think is exactly a favor for him) or stays.

  12. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jcg, the difference between your approach and mine is that I call things as they manifest themselves , while you keep on lucubrating lost in thoughts that won’t lead you anywhere.

    I remember a long discussion we had about Uribe being involved in the El Aro massacre, While you said the evidence was too feeble to be considered then, I wonder what you think now that the testimony of one of the participants has come to light.

    I agree that affirming things based on unofficial evidence is something that can backfire on you. That’s when your sound judgment comes into play. There are things that are evident even if history itself, will never acknowledge them to have been true or ever occurred.

    As to Colombia being a carefully designed Narco State, suffix to say no other country with zillions invested supposedly against combating the “scourge” would have persisted for such a long time in the business otherwise, with such strong evidence of money therefrom having infiltrated the highest political institutions and society’s creme de la creme, and still continue to do so. (For further proof you’d have to read plenty of books supporting this position, from a more formal perspective).

    I hope you have read Semana’s articles on the para’s at Itagui being negotiating their extradition since more than a year, as well as from several others that showed how the paramilitaries secluded there continue to be involved in crimes. You don’t need to be too smart to realize what they are seeking is to be left out of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. So I’d dare say Berna will be extradited sooner or later, that is if Uribe don’t get busted out of Office before that happens.

    When you try to get you opinion through for the first time, you have to be monolithic, otherwise you can be sure your opinion will remain yours. Most of us are too busy in other matters to read anything but.

  13. Jeremiah John Says:

    Adam and Jaime,

    I will have to respectfully disagree that Uribe’s comments didn’t cross the line into an implied threat. I think that what Uribe says about Ivan is tantamount to a call for his execution.

    Observe, “The protection of victims serves them as a way to instigate the violation of the human rights of those people who do not share their ideas. And nothing happens to them.”

    He has stated directly that Ivan is responsible for human rights violations, that is, Ivan is responsible for people’s deaths. And he gives and impression of shock that nothing has happened to Ivan, framing the idea of killing him as a matter of self-defense, to a paramilitary group that calls itself an autodefensa. This is more than an implied threat, this is a call to patriots to cleanse their country of those that perpetrate human rights abuses, namely Ivan.

    May God protect him.
    -Jeremy John

  14. Chris Says:

    there’s more concrete evidence linking venezuela to the farc….are you going to post it?

  15. jcg Says:

    Jaime Bustos: ” jcg, the difference between your approach and mine is that I call things as they manifest themselves , while you keep on lucubrating lost in thoughts that won’t lead you anywhere.”

    In other words, you’re right (because all you’re doing is, supposedly, calling on things as they “manifest” and adding no interpretation or opinion or your own…yeah right, tell me another one) and I am not.

    Even in the unlikely event that you’re right about, say, 75% of the issues we’ve disagreed about, I’d still point to the other 25% and that’d be enough to justify my skepticism regarding certain things you automatically take for granted . Although I suspect that the real figures will be less one sided, to be honest, but it’s not like it matters right now. Have it your way then.

    “I remember a long discussion we had about Uribe being involved in the El Aro massacre, While you said the evidence was too feeble to be considered then, I wonder what you think now that the testimony of one of the participants has come to light.”

    Does it not seem curious that said testimony only emerges 10 years after the guy had given himself up to authorities and first talked about the case, and that certain details in his new declarations are contradictory or conflicting? For example, whether General Manosalva could be at the meeting, if he was supposedly already dead. It’s also the firs time the guy, who has given other declarations to authorities, is claiming that the massacre was intended to rescue kidnapped (!) individuals from the guerrillas. Nothing about that was in his earlier testimony, so it’s not just the Uribe bit which is questionable. But no…you must be right, because things are just “manifesting” themselves, the rest of the details doesn’t matter.

    Btw, I am not saying that Uribe isn’t involved in this, or any other, crime. But I do believe in due process and not in “popular justice” or what have you, which would reduce everything to lynchings depending on how events “manifest”.

    “There are things that are evident even if history itself, will never acknowledge them to have been true or ever occurred.”

    And there are also things that were not evident and not true, even if history acknowledges them as such…and some of them are later revealed to be incorrect.

    “As to Colombia being a carefully designed Narco State, suffix to say no other country with zillions invested supposedly against combating the “scourge” would have persisted for such a long time in the business otherwise, with such strong evidence of money therefrom having infiltrated the highest political institutions and society’s creme de la creme, and still continue to do so. (For further proof you’d have to read plenty of books supporting this position, from a more formal perspective).”

    In other words, that’s the only explanation you can find, even though it’s very difficult to imagine how and why such a “design” would have been established and implemented, let alone by who. I think there are other explanations that don’t require any conspiracy-like “designs”, also supported by other books and authors, even if they are critical of the situation and of the wasted money. Plus there’s also the fact that the drug war itself is fundamentally flawed and hasn’t had lasting success elsewhere, at best leading to balloon effects. Guess that’s also part of the “design”.

    “I hope you have read Semana’s articles on the para’s at Itagui being negotiating their extradition since more than a year, as well as from several others that showed how the paramilitaries secluded there continue to be involved in crimes. You don’t need to be too smart to realize what they are seeking is to be left out of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. So I’d dare say Berna will be extradited sooner or later, that is if Uribe don’t get busted out of Office before that happens.”

    I have in fact read a fair amount of those articles. The success or failure of those negotiations will vary, however, unless you claim to know all of their results and are convinced that they are all positive. If extradition were such a good thing, I wonder why Escobar didn’t just give himself up. It was just so easy, it seems.

    So essentially you believe that they want to go to the U.S. because they won’t end up in an international court. In the short term, at least, you have a point and I think that may be a good reason for those negotiations.

    However, what you are forgetting is that even if they ended up serving, say, a mere 5-10 years in a U.S. jail for drug trafficking, they’d have to be freed and returned to Colombia, where they could face any other charges that still stand (especially those for atrocities and war crimes, as there are provisions that alone them to be judged years after the fact), and in such a situation the ICC could in fact still play a role. Even if the sentences are much longer, it’s not like the Court would never be able to reach them. And even if some of these individuals end up with juicy deals with U.S. prosecutors, again, I don’t think that applies to every single one of them.

  16. Jaime Bustos Says:

    jfc, I cannot but repeat, you are a good person but a very very naive one.

    In the first place I am not suggesting I am mistake proof, as you hint, events are fully loaded of unexpected twists and turns.

    However, considering you my friend I will share some info with you, and let you draw pertinent conclusions.

    Macaco won’t ever step back on Colombian soil. He won’t ever be the person he used to be, at least to the outside world. Even if the press announces he is in a security jail, he might as well be growing pepper mint in Arizona. Money matters.

    The guy who accused Uribe of being one of the perpetrators of the Massacre, had declared so since his first court appearance. As you say there are some contradictions but I believe most of the testimony, taking into account previous clues as to Uribe’s involvement in the massacre (not the only one by the way).

    Don’t forget there were previous declarations by people having seen The yellow Governor’s helicopter hovering over and supervising the massacre.

    Colombia is not only a narco state is the biggest narco State in the world, along with Birmania and probably now Afghanistan. Can you tell me what happened in Afghanistan lately by the way?

    LIsten the fact that you can live a relatively calm bourgeois life in Bogota, and that you are decent person don’t automatically speak the same for most of your country fellas. It’s so difficult to accept? Why? you must only vouch for yourself, not for every other Colombian that by chance was born in the same land coordinates you were.

    I guess when you get to understand this, you won’t get so excited when you read something about Colombia, that in your mind is a conspiracy to discredit the land of “assiduous workers and nice people”. Think.

  17. jcg Says:

    Jaime: And I think you’re not a bad person either, all things considered. But then again, I hardly know you, or anything about you really, so that’s besides the point.

    Though if I am naive, which may well be the case in the grand scheme of things, I am also willing to accept that you might be right -eventually- about certain issues. My opinions are my own, so I can’t help but defend them -at least for now-, yet I do not believe them to be “bulletproof”. That’s one thing worth considering.

    If Uribe’s participation in EL Aro -or that of his office’s helicopter at least- is proven to be correct beyond any reasonable doubt, I will gladly applaud any judicial punishment. But in the meanwhile…if I am naive about Uribe’s rights to due process before assuming his guilt, then perhaps you are being naive in the other direction: any and all accusation count as valid, a person’s rights be damned. And I ask: if Uribe can lie to save his own neck, why can’t people lie *about* Uribe, one way or another, for exactly the same reason? Criminals slime each other, but they can also do that to specific innocents they see as scapegoats (even if those same individuals are in fact criminals themselves, in other cases).

    Again, I can understand -even if I do not do so- calling Colombia a “narco-state”, if you wish, but not stopping right there. Ignoring that, to say the least, the rest of Colombia’s economy cannot be seriously compared to Afghanistan’s, let alone its history. I still see no real explanation or proof that Colombia has been intentionally “designed” by some mysterious hand(s) to be a “narco-state”, as it has been implied. And no, I am not up to date on Afghanistan, not right now at least, so I don’t get your last point.

    Btw, I certainly don’t go around saying to everyone that Colombia is a “land of assiduous workers and nice people”, nor that “Colombia is Passion” is a good slogan, so that music pretty much goes right through my ears. If anything, at the end of the day, other people might accuse me of the opposite.

    I am not vouching for every other Colombian, but I know what it is to be treated unfairly just because of how things “manifest”, so I believe in due process for all human beings (even for SOBs), as imperfect as it may be.

    Better to let the guilty go free than to condemn innocents, is what I think. And that’s one reason I cannot accept the arbitrary detentions Uribe has carried out, ironically enough, nor his slandering against critics.

  18. JamesD Says:

    Thanks for the useful info. It’s so interesting

Leave a Reply