Salvatore Mancuso Gómez also known as "el Mono Mancuso","Santander Lozada" or "Triple Cero", among other names (born August 17, 1964 in Montería, Córdoba) is a Colombian paramilitary leader, once second in command of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group. The paramilitary groups commanded by Mancuso fought the guerrillas (mainly EPL, FARC and ELN), and financed their activities by receiving donations from land owners, drug trafficking, extortions and robbery.
The AUC committed numerous atrocities and massacres against pressumed guerrilla members and the civilian population. Mancuso was initially jailed in a Maximum Security Prison in Itagüí, Antioquia after a peace process that led to his demobilization and then transferred to a prison in the city of Cucuta to from there help identify victims whereabouts. In a surprise move by the Colombian government, Mancuso, together with 13 other top members of the AUC was extradited to the United States to stand trial on drug trafficking charges.
Mancuso was born in Montería, the provincial capital of Córdoba Department. In the northern Colombian Caribbean Region. His father an Italian immigrant and his mother a Monteria native. He is the second of six children. He studied civil engineering in the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and later farming administration in the Escuela de Formación Técnica Agricola in Bogotá. He also studied English at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.
He became a prominent landowner in Cordoba Department and later on in 1995 he joined the "Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Urabá" paramilitary group called Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Urabá alleging being tired of guerrilla extorsions and abuses to which the Colombian government was incompetent. The attacks by the guerrillas to the large state owners in the region brought as a consequence the formation of illegally armed self-defense groups to confront them. This new situation had the sympathy of some sectors of the Colombian state such as politicians and some security forces, including then current and former members of the Colombian National Army. The group was back then under the command of Carlos Castaño, to which Mancuso became second in command.
The paramilitary groups in Colombia later expanded and on April 1997 conformed what they called the "Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia" (AUC), an umbrella organization under the leadership of the "Autodefensas Campesinas de Córdoba y Urabá" operated by Mancuso and Castaño. Following the mysterious disappearance of Castaño, Mancuso became the main strong man of the organization along with Castaño's brother Vicente and, consequently, the main leader in the peace process with the Colombian government of president Alvaro Uribe.
His name has been involved in the conduction of at least eight paramilitary groups that perpetrated several massacres such as Mapiripán. He was formally charged by the Colombian and the American governments for narcotrafficking. The US Government applied for his extradition to the United States in order to be judged by an American court. Marcuso was so unconcerned about it that he attended the ceremony of the "Bloque Bananero"'s demobilization, following the peace process with the Colombian State on November 24, 2004. The extradition application was initially accepted by government of Colombia, but soon was suspended to complete the demobilization process of the AUC. Mancuso demobilized officially and surrendered to the Colombian authorities in the "Bloque Catatumbo"'s demobilization ceremony on December 10, 2006.
On January 15, 2007, Mancuso admitted his crimes to a Colombian court following a deal that his attorneys were pursuing to preclude his extradition to the United States for drug trafficking. According to the country's Justice and Peace Law, Mancuso should reveal trafficking routes and drug contacts in order to completely fulfill the deal.
During his Colombian imprisonment, Mancuso had his own website and criticized the Colombian government, led by Álvaro Uribe Vélez on numerous occasions. Many politicians, members of the National Army and government officials, said Mancuso, had links with the AUC.
In the early morning of May 13, 2008, Mancuso and thirteen other paramilitary leaders were taken from their jail cells in a surprise action by the Colombian government. According to Colombian Interior Minister Carlos Holguin they have been refusing to comply to the country's Peace and Justice law and are therefore extradited to the United States. During his first appearance before the District of Columbia Court, Mancuso refused to speak after having said his name. His lawyer pleaded not guilty for him.
The National Movement of State Crimes, a coalition of several victim organizations that have suffered from state or paramilitary violence, has asked “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.”
The Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated 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”.
The Inter-American Commission stated that this “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.”
Immediately after his extradition Colombian police seized Mancuso's luxury ranches, farms and plots of land, with a combined property value of US$25 million.
On june 5, 2008 Several Colombian media report police in Montería found a suitcase allegedly containing Mancuso's shadow administration, revealing more property owned by the warlord through secret associates.
Colombian paramilitary head confesses; Salvatore Mancuso, leader of a right-wing death squad, admits to about 50 crimes. Will he name top politicians?(WORLD)
Jan 17, 2007; Byline: Sibylla Brodzinsky Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor MEDELL㭎 COLOMBIA -- Miryam Areiza traveled halfway...