Salvatore Mancuso: “At least 200 people are missing in Venezuela, the block I commanded”

Speech by former paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso during the JEP’s Single Truth hearing in Monterrey on May 11, 2023.JEP

Regardless of whether or not former paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso has made new contributions that allow him to enter the JEP, details from the second day of his hearing show the level of terror the paramilitary forces have dealt with union members. has been shown to public force. “At the Las Palmas farm near Puerto Santander, our front killed 19 people between 2001 and 2002. They were incinerated in a hole we had put tires on,” he said.

His story focused on, among other topics, the existence of the cremation grounds in which his group exterminated hundreds of people and how the disappeared spread throughout Venezuela. The disappearance of the victims in the oven was condemned by journalist Javier Osuna in the book You’ll Talk to Me About the Fire, which revealed dramatic tactics reminiscent of Nazism. Mancuso accepted him at this hearing. “Carlos Castaño (former commander) received requests that there were so many victims that attention was being drawn. (…) As a result of these pressures, Castaño ordered all commanders to take these victims to the people to be incinerated. Disappear in the oven,” he said. Furthermore, he explained that this was done so that the promotion of the army would not be affected.

The commission was executed by Jorge Ivan Laverde, aka El Iguano. “Due to complaints from victims in the area, the Cucuta Prosecutor’s Office, which was ours, informed us that they were going to launch an operation to search for those bodies. Then Jorge Ivan decided to destroy the ovens to incinerate the people, and he started a practice and threw the victims into Venezuelan territory,” he said. Mancuso assured that “at least 200 people in Venezuela Catatumbo disappeared into the hands of the bloc,” which he commanded.

The former paramilitary commander assured that it was new and that he had not reported it before in other judicial hearings. “It has great depth because there was also coordination with military and public forces on the Venezuelan side for this type of operation,” he said, and offered to identify graves in the neighboring country.

He said that the expansion of his group in the Catatumbo region on the border between the two countries was carried out in coordination with the Colombian military. “When we entered Catatumbo, they coordinated with the army. It was planned with General Mario Fernando Roa. (…) Colonel Matamoros has already been talked to in the area. and on the ground with Major Mauricio Llorente Chávez, commander of the Heroes de Saraguro Battalion.

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The former paramilitary chief once again referred to General Iván Ramírez as the one who opened the doors to “all battalions”. Similar to General (R) Leonardo Barreiro, who became commander of the military forces and was a candidate for governor of Cauca in 2015 for Uribesta Centro Democratico. Mancuso also said that he had nine helicopters. “Those who taught me to fly were police, army, air force pilots. He instructed us for 10 out of the 15 days he was allowed. Among them was Andres Angarita from the Córdoba block,” Mancuso replied to Judge Valencia.

“Now, when he gets the report, like in the El Salado operation, I (the pilot) talk with the captain of the fighter plane, I tell him we’re a self-defense group in the same fight. And he doesn’t shoot me down because I explain who we are,” Mancuso said. The Salado Massacre took place between February 16 and 22, 2002, and at the time the press called it a “blood party”, as 450 men from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) forced residents to flee. Play drum music before performing on the city soccer field; or the brutal lottery in which he forced them to count to 30 to determine the order of the murders.

It not only splurged on the army; Also for economic and political powers. While the day before he mentioned former Vice President Francisco Santos, this Thursday he spoke of the late politician Jorge Gneco Sercher. “When we reached Caesar we were met by all the rich people of Caesar. That meeting was George Gneko who promoted it. Even the houses where we had our operations center were provided by George Gneko. It was in Valledupar, the nicest neighborhood in Novalito,” Mancuso said. And he allegedly linked James Lee Atkins, head of security for the multinational Drummond, to the killing of trade unions.

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