Rodrigo Tovar AKA “Jorge 40,” one of Colombia’s most wanted paramilitary leaders, was flown back to his home country Sept. 28 after spending 12 years in US prisons for drug trafficking. Once a local official in his hometown of Valledupar, Tovar became commander of the feared “Bloque Norte” of Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary network in the first decade of this century. Revelations upon his demobilization in 2006 triggered the so-called “parapolitics” scandal, with his testimony implicating top government figures in the officially illegal armed networks. But Tovar stopped cooperating with Colombian justice after his brother was assassinated in 2009, a year after his extradition to the US. He now faces multiple charges of war crimes and human rights violations in Colombia, most notoriously the February 2000 massacre of 60 civilians at the village of El Saldado, in the Medio Magdalena region. His one-time mentor in the paramilitary movement, Salvatore Mancuso, is currently fighting deportation to Colombia after also serving a drug trafficking sentence in the US.
Tovar has requested to be allowed to be tried under the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the tribunal created for the peace process with the FARC guerillas, which offers leniency in exchange for cooperation. Only if the JEP grants him this request will Tovar be able to avoid a lengthy prison term; his refusal to cooperate with justice from his US prison got him stripped of the judicial benefits granted after his demobilization.
Tovar’s son Jorge joined the administration of President Iván Duque as a consultant last year. In May he was put in charge of an office in the Interior Ministry that works on restitution policies for victims of the nation’s generations-long conflict. (AP, Colombia Reports)
Photo via Colombia Reports