EXTRADITION CUT SHORT
(Colombia) (Author: CCAJAR - Editorial) [27/5/2008]

Saturday 7 June 2008, by Prensa - Colectivo

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 [...].”

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 ROBERT FISHER, STEVEN G. WARSHAW, CARL H. LINDNER, DURK I. JAGER, JEFFREY D. BENJAMIN, MORTEN ARNTZEN, RODERICK HILLS, CYRUS F. FREIDHEIM and ROBERT OLSON, [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.

Endnotes

Footnotes

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

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

[3La Extradición Otra Maniobra para la Impunidad. National Movement of Victims of State Crimes, May 14, 2008, http://www.colectivodeabogados.org/article.php3?id_article=1294.

[4Pronunciamiento 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.

[5The 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, http://cidh.org/Comunicados/Spanish/2008/21.08sp.htm.)

[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, http://www.elpais.com/articulo/internacional/van/testigos/parapolitica/elpepuint/20080514elpepiint_2/Tes.)

[7On 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, 2007, http://www.freshplaza.es/news_detail.asp?id=2470.)

[8Concerning 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.

[9Marines de los Estados Unidos y Contratistas Vejan a Menores en Colombia. Iván Cepeda Castro, El Espectador, January 8, 2004, http://www.elcorreo.eu.org/esp/article.php3?id_article=4747.

[10Madre de Niña Violada por Militares EEUU Protestó frente a Embajada de ese País. Terra Colombia/EFE, December 5, 2007, http://www3.terra.com.co/actualidad/articulo/html/acu6814.htm.

[11Concerning 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.)

[12Fiscalía Informa sobre Situación de Norteamericanos. Attorney General’s Office, Press Bulletin No. 110, May 5, 2005, http://www.fiscalia.gov.co/pag/divulga/Bol2005/mayo/bol110.htm.

[13Justicia Halló Inocente al General Gabriel Díaz. Diario del Magdalena, http://www.hoydiariodelmagdalena.com.co/Martes/Secciones/La_nacion.htm.

[14Asegurado Oficial por Narcotráfico. Attorney General’s Office. Press Bulletin No. 228. July 9, 2004, http://www.fiscalia.gov.co/pag/divulga/Bol2004/julio/bol228.htm.

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

[16This 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/noticias/judicial/articulo-ex-fiscal-antinarcoticos-y-general-retirado-capturados-red-de-narcotrafic.)

[17Notorious Graduates from Colombia. School of the Americas Watch, http://soaw.org/article.php?id=235.

[18Según la Fiscalía ex Jefe de Inteligencia, General (r) Pauselino Latorre Lavó $ 2 mil millones de la Mafia. El Tiempo, January 24, 2008, http://www.derechos.org/nizkor/colombia/doc/latorre.html.

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