The designation of former paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso as peace manager by the Colombian government generated strong controversy among those who believe that he could help find the truth and support the reparation of victims of violence by these illegal armed groups and others who reject that a person accused of human rights violations should assume that role.
President Gustavo Petro announced that appointment the day before after pointing out that the peace negotiations that the Colombian state undertook with the organizations led by Mancuso “have not yet finished.”
Petro, the first leftist ruler in the history of Colombia, began to use the figure of peace managers so that people, at the discretion of the government, can help in dialogue processes and clarify the truth within the framework of the so-called “total peace” policy.
Mancuso was the commander of the so-called paramilitary groups, which have launched a strong offensive against the guerrillas since the 1990s and are accused by the authorities of human rights violations.
During the government of then President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010), negotiations were held with these groups and the demobilization of several of the members of these illegal organizations was achieved. Mancuso was extradited to the United States, where he was prosecuted for drug trafficking along with 13 other leaders of those groups.
The leftist senator, an ally of President Petro and a negotiator with the ELN guerrilla, Iván Cepeda, assured on Monday that if the presidential decision regarding Mancuso “means” that the former paramilitary commander will contribute to the truth and reparation, it is “positive.”
Cepeda affirmed that Mancuso’s intention must be reflected in facts and in the possibility that those affected by paramilitary violence can find out what happened to their relatives and find reparation for their suffering.
The ex-commander of the extinct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Rodrigo Londoño, known during the armed conflict as Timochenko, stated that this designation should contribute to the reparation of the victims of violence. He also assured that some people close to former President Uribe are “concerned” that the country knows the truth about the crimes of the paramilitary groups and the responsibility of the State in them, according to him.
Meanwhile, former President Iván Duque (2018-2022) assured on Monday on the Caracol Radio station that Mancuso has tried to enter the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) “through the back door” on several occasions. The JEP is the court that is prosecuting the ex-combatants of the FARC after the peace agreement with that former guerrilla. In this court, the truth of what happened in the midst of the hostilities must be recognized and the sentences have a restorative nature that does not contemplate sentences in prison centers.
Duque said that Mancuso on several occasions has tried to link former President Uribe to the paramilitary groups he commanded, but that he has not shown “evidence” of those facts. In addition, he was against the fact that convicted persons are designated peace managers.
The former vice president and head of the Radical Change Party, Germán Vargas Lleras, stated in Snail Radio that if the former paramilitary commander has already paid for his faults, he could play a role in the search for peace.
While the former presidential candidate of the Democratic Center, former President Uribe’s party, Rafael Nieto Loaiza, assured that President Petro could not advance in the appointment of the former paramilitary commander due to legal limitations. According to him, the peace managers have to belong to some illegal armed group so that the governments can designate them as such, something that would not be fulfilled in this case.