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Rubio urges Biden to halt extradition of Colombian warlord after Petro appoints him as 'peace envoy'

This month, Colombian President Gustavo Petro named the former warlord as a peace envoy as part of a campaign to dismantle illegal armed groups

Senator Marco Rubio
Senator Marco Rubio | EFE

August 24, 2023 8:58am

Updated: August 24, 2023 8:58am

Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday urged the Biden administration to reject Colombia’s extradition request of a notorious former paramilitary warlord responsible for crimes that took place during the country’s internal conflict, stressing concerns that the move will be counterproductive to justice.

Salvatore Mancuso, also known as “Triple Zero,” was one a senior commander of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) during the late ‘90s and 2000s. During his time in charge of the UAC, he ordered thousands of disappearances, sexual violence acts, and massacres of civilians. 

In 2020, Mancuso, 59, completed a 12-year cocaine trafficking sentence after he was extradited to the U.S. by former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in 2008. However, he has been held in U.S. custody since then, after Colombia reversed an order that would have had him sent to Italy, a country he is also a citizen of.

Instead, Colombia requested that he be extradited to the South American country.

This month, Colombian President Gustavo Petro named Mancuso a peace envoy as part of his campaign to dismantle illegal armed groups that emerged after AUC disbanded around twenty years ago.

Petro added that he would seek to suspend the prison sentences against Mancuso in Colombia. 

“How can someone be named a peace manager when they committed so much war and death? It’s an insult to all of his victims,” said Angelica Salsero, representative of the Association of Victims in Córdoba, where the AUC originated. 

Given Mancuso’s role in so many violent crimes, Rubio, the top Republican on the subcommittee dealing with Latin America, asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to reject the extradition request until Colombia agrees to hold the paramilitary accountable for his crimes. 

“To allow Mancuso to not only walk free in Colombia but also represent the Colombian government in negotiations with drug traffickers currently working to flood our community with narcotics, would be an insult to the thousands of Colombians who are victims of Mancuso’s crimes,” he wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Garland.