This is the day when Salvatore Mancuso, former top leader of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary network, is scheduled to have been released from federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. He was extradited to face drug trafficking charges in May 2008. Mancuso, 55, was likely transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention; it is not clear whether he is requesting U.S. asylum or will be returned to Colombia, or whether COVID-19 is delaying his return.
The White House announces that the U.S. government’s estimate of Colombian coca cultivation increased from 208,000 hectares in 2018 to 212,000 in 2019. The declaration calls it a “stabilization” of coca cultivation. Referring to a counter-narcotics dialogue that took place on the same day, it reports, “A focus of the discussion was expanding the results of Colombia’s integrated coca eradication program by ensuring full use of all available tools, including manual eradication, alternative development, and a Colombian-led aerial eradication component, supported by rural development and rural security programs.”
President Iván Duque makes a hastily planned visit to Washington, where he meets with President Donald Trump at the White House. Asked by a reporter about coca cultivation in Colombia, Trump tells Duque, “Well, you’re going to have to spray. If you don’t spray, you’re not going to get rid of them. So you have to spray, with regard to the drugs in Colombia.” Duque responds, “We have to combine all the elements that we have: obviously, precision spraying, but also the record highs that we reached in 2019 on manual eradication and also dismantling the drug cartels.”
Colombian Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo pays a visit to the United States. He visits the U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force-North in Key West, Florida, which monitors suspicious aerial and maritime trafficking. He meets with top officials at Southern Command headquarters in Doral, Miami. And he travels to Washington for a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
The U.S. Department of Justice communicates that top former paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso, who headed the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), will be returned to Colombia on March 27, twelve years after his extradition to the United States. A Colombian judge has determined that Mancuso has already served his required jail time under the “Justice and Peace” process that governed the AUC’s 2003-06 demobilization, though he must continue to cooperate with that process. Mancuso intends to collaborate with the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) because, as a landowner, he supported paramilitary groups for several years before becoming a paramilitary leader.
The CEO of the International Development Finance Corporation, a U.S. government body that issues loans and loan guarantees, visits Tumaco, the Pacific coast municipality that leads all Colombian municipalities in land area planted with coca. Adam Boehler promises US$5 billion in financing for private development projects, and witnesses a coca eradication operation.