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Cablegate: A Look Inside the Itagui-Maximum Security Prison

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #1330/01 3531854
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 191854Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1446
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7323
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 8530
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ DEC LIMA 4592
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 9834
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5250
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 3817
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHOND/DIRONDCP WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 011330

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT ALSO FOR P-HEIDE BRONKE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/19/2016
TAGS: KJUS PGOV PINR PREL PTER CO
SUBJECT: A LOOK INSIDE THE ITAGUI-MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON


Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood.
Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d)

-------
Summary
-------

1. (C) Sergio Caramagna, Director of the OAS Mission to
Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP/OAS), told the
Ambassador on December 15 he never imagined seeing the
ex-paramilitary leaders "behind bars." Caramagna described
Itagui maximum-security prison as dark, crowded, and dank.
Now more than ever, he said, "the GOC had the upper-hand on
the former paramilitaries, who were even more vulnerable than
before." Caramagna said that since the ex-paramilitary
leaders called off the peace process on December 6, the OAS,
with the help of the Church and Antioquia's Peace Facilitator
Commission, had met with them in an effort to preserve the
process. Caramagna said several ex-paras told him they were
ready to tell the truth through the Justice and Peace Law,
but needed better security guarantees from the GOC. End
summary.

----------------------
Dynamics Within Itagui
----------------------

2. (C) MAPP/OAS Director Sergio Caramagna told the
Ambassador on December 15 he never imagined seeing the
ex-paramilitary leaders "behind bars." The ex-paras always
expected to be in a low-or medium-security prison, such as La
Ceja. Caramagna said the ex-paras felt betrayed by the
President's decision to transfer them to Itagui since it
undermined GOC peace process commitments. Caramagna
described maximum security Itagui prison as dark, crowded,
and dank. Now more than ever, he said, "the GOC has the
upper-hand on the former paramilitaries, who are even more
vulnerable than before."

3. (C) Caramagna said that of the 59 ex-paramilitary members
transferred from La Ceja to Itagui, only 14 were major
paramilitary leaders. The rest were assistants or mid-level
members. The ex-paras were divided into two groups, with a
moderate group led by Ramon Isaza and Salvatore Mancuso
trying to preserve the peace process, and a larger, more
radical group led by Ivan Roberto Duque (AKA "Ernesto Baez")
and Carlos Mario Jimenez, (AKA "Macaco"), emphasizing the
process was over.

4. (C) Caramagna said a majority of the ex-paras in Itagui
were former mid-level members who served under Macaco in the
Central Bolivar Bloc (BCB). Macaco, who has more followers
with him than the other para leaders in Itagui, has been able
to intimidate other ex-paras and expand his influence over
other inmates. Caramagna heard Macaco was giving out
promissory notes ("vales") that carried monetary value
outside of Itagui to "trustworthy" inmates. Caramanga was
concerned that if Macaco were to stay in Itagui for more than
six months, he would end up controlling the maximum-security
prison from within.

5. (C) Caramagna said Salvatore Mancuso was alone and feared
for his life and that of his family. He said Mancuso acted
strong around the other ex-paras, but when he met with him
alone, Mancuso turned into "a scared little boy." Caramagna
said Mancuso was close to having a nervous breakdown; he
wanted to confess all of his crimes, but was afraid to do so.
Mancuso had compared himself to former paramilitary leader
Carlos Castano, who was killed by his colleagues when they
suspected he was going to tell the truth about the group to
the U.S. Mancuso was concerned other ex-paras thought he
planned to do the same. A month before Castano was killed,
some of his family members were murdered. Caramagna said
Mancuso told him several of his family members, including his
child, had recently received threats.

6. (C) Caramagna said former paramilitary leader Diego
Murillo (AKA "Don Berna") was trying to bring the two
ex-paramilitary sides together to maintain unity, and OAS
regional observers told Caramagna Don Berna's people in
Medellin had received a holiday card from him telling them
how important it was to continue to support the peace
process. Don Berna was also mediating between the
ex-paramilitaries and other illegal armed group members
(IAGs) held in Itagui. Caramagna described a three-hour long
meeting he had with Don Berna in his jail cell. Don Berna
was accompanied by former EPL leader Francisco Caraballo and
ELN negotiator Juan Carlos Cuellar. Caramagna described the
meeting as "surreal," with the two far-left guerrillas and a
far-right paramilitary giving their individual analysis of
why the violence in Colombia has lasted so long. Caramagna
said, "They were talking in such harmony, it was simply
amazing." He added, "This is what two years of companionship
in prison does."

----------------------------------------
Door Half Open for Continued Peace Talks
----------------------------------------

7. (C) Caramagna noted that since the ex-paramilitary
leaders called off the peace process on December 6, the OAS,
with the help of the Catholic Church and Antioquia's Peace
Facilitator Commission, had continued to meet them to try to
revive the process. The ex-paras claimed the GOC had failed
to meet its commitments including: (1) incarceration in a
low-or medium-security prison; (2) compliance with the
Justice and Peace Law; and (3) an offer of political status
for the ex-paramilitary leaders. Caramagna told them the GOC
was not the only side to break the agreement. He had cited
four instances where the paras had failed to keep their part
of the bargain: (1) the killing of Carlos Castano; (2) the
kidnapping of a cattle rancher in Cesar; (3) the killing of a
departmental legislator; and (4) repeated breaches of the
cease-fire. He said the MAPP/OAS had not highlighted these
incidents to prevent the peace process from collapsing.
Caramagna added that several ex-paras had told him privately
they were ready to tell the truth under the Justice and Peace
Law, but needed better GOC security guarantees.
WOOD

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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