In an interview with a Colombian radio station, paramilitary warlord Salvatore Mancuso said that he had personally met with ex-President Alvaro Uribe, but declined to give further details. The question now is whether Mancuso's version of the truth can be corroborated.

On May 11, Mancuso (pictured) remarked to Caracol Radio, "Yes, I met with Alvaro Uribe, but I prefer not to give any details about it." He also said that he donated money to Uribe's re-election campaign in 2006, which was used to purchase advertising, food, and transportation.

InSight Crime Analysis

This is among the most explicit testimony that Uribe had face-to-face interaction with paramilitary group the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), implicating him directly in paramilitary activity. Many other former AUC warlords -- Mancuso included -- have testified that many of Uribe's associates like his younger brother, his vice president, his intelligence chief, and chief of staff met repeatedly with paramilitary groups.

[See InSight Crime's profile of the AUC]

But while many of Uribe's closest political allies have been accused of (or in the case of his cousin Mario, imprisoned for) paramilitary ties, allegations that directly implicate Uribe himself are more unusual. The most prominent case involved a former paramilitary fighter, Francisco Enrique Villalba Hernández, who said that Uribe personally thanked the perpetrators of a massacre that took place in 1997. Villalba's testimony was filled with inconsistencies, but when he was assassinated in 2009, this helped feed the perception that powerful interests wanted him silenced.

When participating in Colombia's Justice and Peace program -- created to give demobilizing paramilitaries reduced sentences in return for truthful testimony -- Mancuso had provided many damning allegations involving Uribe's political allies. When the Colombian government abruptly extradited 14 paramilitary leaders (including Mancuso) to the US in 2008, critics said that Uribe was trying to sabotage the Justice and Peace process by silencing warlords who had spoken against him.

Uribe has, unsurprisingly, issued a strong denial of Mancuso's statement. But aside from Mancuso's claim that he met personally with Uribe, there was little new about his assertions. One of Mancuso's associates has previously testified that the AUC supported Uribe's 2006 presidential campaign, while several warlords have spoken under oath about the alleged involvement of Uribe's younger brother, Santiago, in running his own paramilitary group.

Uribe's primary defense is that warlords like Mancuso have a political agenda of their own, and that their allegations are likely to be inaccurate or false. Mancuso has hinted that he cannot reveal everything he really knows, because then his family would face reprisals in Colombia. It is likely that the only other witnesses who can corroborate whatever direct interaction took place between Uribe and the AUC, if any, are the 13 other warlords whom Uribe extradited to the US. But like Mancuso says, they have little capacity to protect themselves from reprisals should they again begin sharing information about paramilitary collaboration with the Colombian government.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...