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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Extraditions Cut Short

(Sent in English by the Lawyer’s Colective Jose Alvear Restrepo)

(Return the paramilitary chiefs to Colombia so they may
be processed by the ordinary justice system.)


No Justice, No Truth, No Reparation:

Extraditions Cut Short

José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective
Colectivo de Abogados “José Alvear Restrepo”
May 27, 2008
Bogotá, Colombia

In reference to the recent extradition of 14 paramilitary chiefs, the US
Ambassador in Colombia, William Brownfield, recently affirmed that “with this
extradition, Colombia and the United States will become better countries,” [1]
basing this on the harmonious relationship between the two countries and
alleging that all procedures established in Colombian law had been respected,
that information would be shared with Colombian authorities, and that the
“legal system in the United States also recognizes the right of the victims to
ask for compensation y repayment in a legal process […].” [2]

Nonetheless, this decision has severely harmed the victims and the National
Movement of Victims of State Crimes demanded the United States government “to
return the paramilitary chiefs to the Colombian authorities so they may be
processed by the ordinary justice system and not under the framework of the
Law of Justice and Peace, since this framework benefits the victimizers and
not the victims, since they have not told all of the truth, have not made
comprehensive reparations to the victims, and have not dismantled their
criminal structures.” [3]

In turn, the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights emphatically remembered that “[…] according to Colombian law, the
reasons claimed by the President of the Republic to proceed with the
previously-suspended extraditions are also grounds for their removal from the
application of the ‘Law of Justice and Peace’ and for the loss of the benefits
established therein.” [4] Moreover, the Inter-American Commission observed
that the extradition of the paramilitary chiefs “affects the Colombian State’s
obligation to guarantee victims’ rights to truth, justice, and reparations for
the crimes committed by the paramilitary groups.” [5]

While Colombia sets out on the long march to someday recover a shred of truth
taken with the primary “witnesses of para-politics,” as Rafael Pardo
appropriately called them, [6] within the framework of these sudden
presidential decisions, we also wonder about other persons who –with more than
enough grounds and under the same assumptions serving as the basis for these
extraditions- are also “eligible” for this practice.

For instance, we refer to US citizens, who have committed crimes in Colombia,
yet enjoy complete freedom due to agreements reached with the US justice
system or to immunity agreements, which provide them with immunity –it is
worth repeating- even from the laws of their own country, as is the case of
[7] all of whom have been board members of Chiquita Brands, which for years
made payments to paramilitary structures and participated in the logistics to
enter arms that these groups used to massacre, torture, disappear, and
forcibly displace thousands of peasants in Uraba. [8]

We also refer to members of Plan Colombia’s contracted mission operating in
Tolemaida that distributed a video in October 2004, which showed underage
girls from Melgar who were subjected to sexual abuses. [9] Specifically, we
refer to “Michel J. Coen, an active-duty US army sergeant, and César Ruiz, a
retired US army military member, providing security in Tolemaida,” [10] who
sexually abused a twelve-year-old Colombian girl at the Air Force’s Combat Air
Command No. 4 (CACOM 4) in Melgar on August 26, 2007. [11]

Likewise, we refer to US citizens Alan Norman Tanquary and José Hernández,
firing range instructors at the Army National Training Center in Tolemaida who
belonged to the Seventh Group of the US Army Special Forces. In May 2005, they
were arrested on the road connecting the departments of Tolima and
Cundinamarca as they were trafficking more than 30,000 projectiles meant for
paramilitary groups. The Attorney General’s Office requested the lifting of
immunity, however it was not granted. [12]

And we also refer to the members of the Colombian public force that have
trafficked in narcotics or have favored the processing of these illicit
substances through the trafficking of the chemical precursors. We speak of
members of the special anti-kidnapping unit Gaula, which confiscated 3,000
kilos of cocaine in the city of Barranquilla in 2002 and, in exchange for
1,800 million pesos, returned it to the drug traffickers. [13]

We speak of Army Major Gil Gonzalo Vivero Amador, who -along with Rubén
Oswaldo Ceballos Burbano, another a member of the military- organized the
transport of cocaine base from Puerto Caicedo, Putumayo, to Pitalito, Huila,
in June 2003, while using equip and logistics from the Domingo Rico Battalion
stationed in Villa Garzón, one of Plan Colombia’s emblematic bases “in the
fight against drug trafficking.” These military members were convicted for the
crime of drug trafficking by the Nariño District Court in August 2007. [14]

We speak of Army Colonel Miguel Ángel Sierra Santos and Army Major Javier
Alberto Carreño Vargas, who the Procurator General’s Office filed charges
against due to their alleged collaboration with a paramilitary group operating
in the department of Caquetá in 2003 by allowing the entrance of fuel and
cement, components used to process narcotics and psychoactive substances. [15]

And we speak of retired General Pauselino Latorre, who was detained by order
of the Attorney General’s Office -along with 21 other persons including his
nephew former prosecutor Leobardo Latorre- for trafficking drugs to the
United. [16] During his long military career, retired General Latorre held
such positions as chief of army intelligence, chief of the Army’s Third
Division in Cali, commander of the 17th Brigade based in Carepa (Antioquia),
and was a graduate of the School of the Americas based in Fort Benning,
Georgia, EEUU, among other important positions. [17] According to an
investigator of the case, "[i]t was established that [Latorre] served to
launder more than 2 thousand million pesos that resulted from the drug
trafficking business." [18]

What happens with all of them? Are Colombia and the United States not
interested in bringing US citizens to trial that have committed the very
crimes for which they are supposed to be supporting Colombian security
agencies and which justify their presence and the very existence of Plan
Colombia? Is Colombia not interested in domestically processing US citizens
who are encouraged by their diplomatic immunity to rape girls in their very
military bases (and not satisfied with that also subjecting them to public
humiliation)? Is the US government not interested in processing Colombian
military and police members that ignore their responsibilities and instead
logistically support, collude, and sustain drug-trafficking paramilitary
forces in the processing, trafficking, and commercialization of cocaine? Is
the Colombian government not interested in knowing the truth concerning the
board members of the banana company that financed the crimes against humanity
committed by paramilitaries?

How is it Colombia and the United States will become better countries when
there is a clear imbalance in the obligation of collaborating with the
Colombian justice system in cases involving sexual assault and the rights of
girls, the very trafficking of narcotics, or support to paramilitary
structures? How do they become better countries when the indignation of drug
trafficking falls on para-State structures, but never on the State structures
that participate and direct the commission of said crime? How do they become
better countries by selectively applying the concept of extradition in clear
detriment to the inalienable right to truth of the victims of crimes against
humanity? How do they become better countries when debate centers on the word
reparation, yet devoids it of any meaning?

Reparation is not an economic compensation, since a daughter that has been
disappeared, a father murdered, a people devastated and vanquished, a union
leader, an indigenous person or Afro-descendent, a journalist, human rights
defender, do not have a price in either pesos or dollars.

Reparation means knowing the truth about what happened: finding the remains of
those disappeared, knowing who are the material and intellectual authors of
the murder, returning the stolen land in dignified and secure conditions,
guaranteeing that the violations are not going to happen again or that other
Colombians will never again be subjected to disgrace and impunity.

Reparation is not made through a bureaucratic fund for the distribution of
goods, or through the promise that Colombians who subsist on less than one
dollar a day may access this reparation through lawsuits filed directly in the
United States. Reparation means treating the victims with respect, dignifying
their pain, giving the memory a social connotation and not a private shame.
Reparation means embracing the truth, without being afraid of it.

As opposed to statements made by US ambassador Brownfield, these latest
extraditions of Colombians to the United States will not improve either of the
countries or facilitate the comprehensive reparation of the victims.


[1] Con esta Extradición, Colombia y EEUU serán Mejores Países. Semana
Magazine, May 13, 2008, http://www.semana.com/wf_InfoArticulo.aspx?idArt=111792.

[2] Tendrán Garantías las Víctimas: William Brownfield. Semana Magazine, May
13, 2008, http://www.semana.com/wf_InfoArticulo.aspx?idArt=111778.

[3] La Extradición Otra Maniobra para la Impunidad. National Movement of
Victims of State Crimes, May 14, 2008,

[4] Pronunciamiento sobre la Extradición de 13 ex Jefes Paramilitares y su
Impacto en la Lucha contra la
 Impunidad. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Bogotá D.C., May 13, 2008,
http://www.hchr.org.co/publico/comunicados/2008/comunicados2008.php3?cod=12&cat=73 <http://www.hchr.org.co/publico/comunicados/2008/comunicados2008.php3?cod=12&amp;cat=73> .

[5] “The Commission notes that this extradition affects the Colombian State’s
obligation to guarantee victims’ rights to truth, justice, and reparations for
the crimes committed by the paramilitary groups. The extradition impedes the
investigation and prosecution of such grave crimes through the avenues
established by the Justice and Peace Law in Colombia and through the Colombian
justice system’s regular criminal procedures. It also closes the door to the
possibility that victims can participate directly in the search for truth
about crimes committed during the conflict, and limits access to reparations
for damages that were caused. This action also interferes with efforts to
determine links between agents of the State and these paramilitary leaders.”
(See: IACHR Expresses Concern about Extradition of Colombian Paramilitaries.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Press Release, Nº 21/08,

[6] "‘The witnesses of para-politics, who had reached agreements with these
politicians, have gone,’ plainly said former Colombian Minister of Defense
Rafael Pardo. And it is true: Salvatore Mancuso, the Mono Mancuso as they call
him in his native Monteria, is one of the persons who had talked the most
about the links between the paramilitaries and the upper echelons of political
power. He was the first to say that 35% of the Congress was hired by the
paramilitaries and, recently, during a television program, he accepted that
they had ‘come up short.’ Today more than 60 legislators have been implicated
in this scandal, 33 of them are in jail, among them Mario Uribe, the
president’s cousin. And he said even more: he claimed that all branches of
power had been infiltrated by the United Self-Defense Forces (AUC). Mancuso
confessed before the justice system some of the hundreds of his crimes and
stained several personalities. He accused the Minster of Defense, Juan Manuel
Santos, of having met with them several times to organize a plot against
former President Ernesto Samper. He assured that Vicepresident Francisco
Santos looked for them to create a paramilitary front for Bogotá. And he also
denounced that banana multinationals that operate in the country paid generous
brides to the organization […]." (See: “Se Van los Testigos de la
'Parapolítica’.” P. Lozano, El País, March 14, 2008,

[7] “On December 7, as revealed yesterday by El Tiempo, the 29th Specialized
District Attorney’s Office in Medellín called the board members of Chiquita,
and the enterprises Probán, Unibán and Sunisa-Del Monte, to make statements
concerning charges for conspiracy to commit an aggravated crime and financing
illegal armed groups. The court order mentions Robert Fisher, Steven G. Wars,
Carl H. Linder, Durk Jaguer, Jeffrey Benjamin, Morten Amtzen, Roderick Hills
(former committee director of Chiquita), Cyrus F. Freidheim (former general
director and currently president of an important media group), and Robert
Olson, former legal counsel. The nine of them, according to the initial data
obtained by the Attorney General’s Office, knew of the illegal operation
through which 1.7 million dollars were transferred to the AUC, a charge to
which Chiquita has already admitted and for which the US justice system fined
it 25 millions dollars.” (See: Diez ex Directivos de Chiquita fueron Incluidos
en Investigación de la Fiscalía por Pagos a las AUC. El Tiempo, December 18,

[8] Concerning the entering of weapons: 18th Attorney General’s Office,
National Unit against Terrorism, Process No. 63.625, Resolution dated August
1, 2003; Report of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American
States on the Diversion of Nicaraguan Arms to the United Defense Forces of
Colombia. Organization of American States, OEA/Ser.G, CP/doc. 3687/03, January
29, 2003, scm.oas.org/doc_public/ENGLISH/HIST_03/CP10739E06.DOC. Concerning
the case of financing paramilitary structures: United States v. Chiquita
Brands International Inc. United States District Court for the District of
Columbia, Government’s Sentencing Memorandum, Criminal No. 07-055 (RCL),
September 17, 2007, http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/chiquita091607.htm.

[9] Marines de los Estados Unidos y Contratistas Vejan a Menores en Colombia.
Iván Cepeda Castro, El Espectador, January 8, 2004,

[10] Madre de Niña Violada por Militares EEUU Protestó frente a Embajada de
ese País. Terra Colombia/EFE, December 5, 2007,

[11] Concerning this case it is worth remembering that Ambassador Brownfield
has already stated his support for the extradition of the two military members
(even though up to now there is no information concerning any concrete action
taken to bring about these extraditions). “On the other hand, the diplomat
indicated that his country would also collaborate, if so requested, in a
possible extradition of the two military members accused of raping a girl at a
Colombian Air Base. ‘They have yet to be accused. We are ready to collaborate
with the authorities and in the end it is the decision of the prosecutor to
decide if at this time there are grounds to make an accusation. They are the
ones to decide,’ said Ambassador Brownfield. The two accused military members
are US Army Second Sergeant Michael J. Coen and César Ruiz, who provide
services to US staff at the military base in Tolemaida, Central Southern
Colombia”. (See: EE.UU. Colaboraría con Extradición de Ejecutivos de Chiquita
Brands. La Patria, November 23, 2007,
http://www.lapatria.com/Noticias/ver_noticia.aspx?CODNOT=24286&CODSEC=5 <http://www.lapatria.com/Noticias/ver_noticia.aspx?CODNOT=24286&amp;CODSEC=5> .)

[12] Fiscalía Informa sobre Situación de Norteamericanos. Attorney General’s
Office, Press Bulletin No. 110, May 5, 2005,

[13] Justicia Halló Inocente al General Gabriel Díaz. Diario del Magdalena,

[14] Asegurado Oficial por Narcotráfico. Attorney General’s Office. Press
Bulletin No. 228. July 9, 2004,

[15] Procurator General’s Office, File No. 009-98722-2004.

[16] “This concerns Pauselino Latorre, former chief of the Third Army Division
in Cali and Leovaldo Latorre, his nephew, former prosecutor of the
Antinarcotics Unit of the Attorney General’s Office. […] Neither Army General
Pauselino Latorre Gamboa, who retired two years ago, nor his nephew, former
District Prosecutor Leobardo Latorre, have been requested in extradition,
clarified Iguarán”. (Ver: Ex fiscal Antinarcóticos y General Retirado
Capturados con red de Narcotráfico. El Espectador, January 24, 2008,
http://www.elespectador.com/elespectador/Secciones/Detalles.aspx?idNoticia=20872&idSeccion=22L <http://www.elespectador.com/elespectador/Secciones/Detalles.aspx?idNoticia=20872&amp;idSeccion=22L> .)

[17] Notorious Graduates from Colombia. School of the Americas Watch,

[18] Ex Jefe de Inteligencia, General (r) Pauselino Latorre Lavó $ 2 mil
Millones de la Mafia. El Tiempo, January 24, 2008,

"No podrá haber paz mientras subsistan diferencias tan profundas,
desproporcionadas e irritantes en la suerte de las personas y de los pueblos."
- José Alvear Restrepo

"Peace is not possible as long as such profound, disproportionate, and
aggravating differences exist in the fate of persons and peoples." - José
Alvear Restrepo

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org



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