Editorial, EL ESPECTADOR, February 21, 2022


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

It’s fundamental that “Otoniel” be able tell everything he knows before he is extradited. Let’s not postpone the truth.

We are perceiving an atmosphere around what the bandit Darío Antonio Úsuga, alias Otoniel, might have to say. That has been made more than clear by the multiple attempts to intimidate the work of the Truth Commission last week. The question, that just might begin to be answered by the testimony of the man who was the maximum leader of the Clan del Golfo, is who were those that were behind those attacks. It’s necessary that the transitional justice system have absolute guarantees that it will be able to hear Otoniel, and that the Supreme Court of Justice, before it allows him to be extradited, give preferential weight to the truths that he can furnish while he remains in Colombia.

Last weekend, the Truth Commission’s investigator, who has accompanied Commissioner Alejandro Valencia, got up in the morning with the house turned upside down. Only one thing was missing: the tape recorders that had been used a day earlier to record the knockout interview with Otoniel. That interview, incidentally, was interrupted by officers of the Dijín (Colombian Judicial Police), saying that there was a risk of flight by the captive drug trafficker, even though there is information making clear that it was unnecessary to be so aggressive toward the members of the Commission. Those are two events that are not necessarily connected, but they do add up to the same thing: there is a clear interest in sowing terror about what the leader of the Clan del Golfo is able to tell.

Fortunately, the interview of Otoniel was not lost. The Commissioners had made a copy after the meeting, as dictated by protocol. But the fact that somebody could enter the home of a Commission member, search for it, and get away in total impunity, is an act of violence that deserves  to be rejected entirely. How can members of the Truth Commission feel secure when the privacy of their homes is violated so easily, and with what dark intentions, who knows?

“We all know that there are interests in keeping that man from talking and from telling the truth, because there are many sectors that have been compromised in the conflict,” said Commission member Valencia, speaking with BLU Radio. This appears undeniable to us. It is also a demonstration of the fact that the Truth Commission, so much vilified by certain political sectors, is achieving an essential accomplishment of its purpose: to talk with the greatest number of actors in the conflict, so as to construct this complicated account.

That’s why it’s fundamental that Otoniel gets to tell everything he knows, not just before the Truth Commission, but also before the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). Before the Peace Tribunal, the drug trafficker’s motion to be allowed to submit to the process, says that he wants to tell about his “collaboration in illegal actions with serious violations of human rights by the Colombian Army and the DAS,[1] as well as the promotion, planning, organization, and financing of the paramilitary groups that succeeded the now-defunct United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) between the years of 2006 and 2008.” That is something that Colombia needs to find out.

So let Otoniel talk. And if it’s from Colombia for a while, all the better. The extradition procedures have shown that the truth in this country is postponed for years while the United States legal system carries out its functions. Changing the order of the actions, in this case, does not violate our commitment to justice; rather it recognizes that the process now going forward in Colombia is urgent. There are so many that don’t want us to find out what the drug trafficker has to say. We don’t have to let them triumph.

,,[1] DAS was Colombia’s Administrative of Security. It was dissolved in 2011.

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