ramon isaza AUC

Former paramilitary leader Ramon Isaza, alias “El Viejo,” has been sentenced to 40 years in a Colombia prison for crimes committed over the course of a 30-year career, reported local media on Friday.

Ramon Isaza, former commander of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) of Magdalena Medio, along with four other former commanders from different fronts of the same bloc, were tried for crimes committed during the years 1997-2006, reported Colombia’s Caracol Radio.

El Viejo and the four other former paramilitaries were sentenced at the Court of Justice and Peace of the Superior Court of Bogota.

The court sentenced Isaza to 40 years in prison on charges of aggravated murder, murder of protected persons, torture of protected persons, extortion, terrorism, forced displacement, forced disappearances, and illegal recruitment.

As the former head of the AUC, El Viejo led the notorious paramilitary bloc that waged a brutal war against Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel. He had previously said that any of Escobar’s men found in one of the regions controlled by paramilitaries would be subject to torture before being killed.

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The other former leaders convicted were Oliver Gomez Isaza, the son of El Viejo, Luis Eduardo Zuluaga Asilah, Walter Guisao Ochoa, and John Fredy Bedoya Gallo.

The ruling does however, grant them the benefit to the right of the alternative penalty provided by the Justice and Peace Law for a term of eight years of imprisonment, which would overrule their original sentences.

The 2005 Justice and Peace Law gave paramilitary combatants and leaders access to fixed and dramatically reduced sentences in exchange for their weapons and full compliance with justice investigations. Those who made use of the statute would serve no more than eight years in prison, provided they divulged any knowledge they possessed of criminal activity or crimes committed against humanity to investigators.

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It is possible; however, that those convicted could lose their benefits of the country’s demobilization process for violations of court commitments.

Isaza first formed an armed group in 1978, consisting of eight men with the goal of fighting leftist insurgents in the area. He agreed to coordinate more closely with other paramilitary groups when AUC leader Carlos Castaño sought to unify right-wing paramilitary groups. However, Isaza later distanced himself from Castaño due to the AUC’s involvement in the drug trade.


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