Paramilitary commander appeals to Colombian authorities from US prison

Extradited paramilitary warlord Diego Fernando “Don Berna” Murillo appealed for a commission of Colombian congressmen to visit him in his US prison so he can continue his collaboration with Bogotá on bringing justice. Don Berna—sentenced to 31 years for drug trafficking April 22—appealed in a letter to Colombian lawmakers to visit him to “guarantee transparency, accuracy and efficiency” in his cooperation with the special Justice and Peace tribunal that seeks to clarify the crimes committed by paramilitaries before the “demobilization” of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

In a letter to opposition senator Piedad Córdoba, Don Berna writes that “the people have a right to know their history so it is not repeated. I am committed to tell the truth; the victims are entitled to know, just like all Colombians.” Murillo stated at his sentencing in Manhattan federal district court that he and the AUC financially supported the campaign of Álvaro Uribe for the 2002 presidency—which was vehemently denied by Uribe’s former campaign manager, Fabio Echeverri Correa.

Don Berna is the former leader of AUC’s Medellín-based Cacique Nutibara Bloc as well as the rural Héroes de Granada and Héroes de Tolová blocs, and is suspected of thousands of crimes against humanity. At the sentencing, Don Berna’s attorney Margaret M. Shalley called him “a patriot, and a man who has fallen victim to the violence in Colombia.” (Colombia Reports, April 23; Semana, Bogotá, El Tiempo, Bogotá, April 22)

See our last post on Colombia’s paramilitaries.

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  1. Don Berna: My drug money funded Uribe campaign
    From IPS, April 28:

    Former Colombian paramilitary chief and drug lord Diego Murillo, alias “Don Berna”, testified in a U.S. court that he helped finance President Álvaro Uribe’s first election campaign, in 2002…

    During the trial in a New York courtroom, one of Murillo’s lawyers, Margaret Shalley, read out a statement depicting her client as a victim of Communist violence, a patriot who was left disabled—he has a prosthetic leg—and nevertheless continued generating money to help his people.

    The lawyer asked federal U.S. District Judge Richard Berman to take into account, before sentencing her client, that he and the AUC backed Uribe’s presidential campaign in 2002, to which he contributed “large sums of money.”

    When she was finished reading the declaration, the judge asked Murillo if he had any objection to what his lawyer had read out, and he said no.

    Murillo said that using the money that he derived from drug trafficking was the only way to block the advance of the Communist guerrillas in Colombia.