Thursday, September 29, 2011

How to Leave Your Crimes Behind

Back in the Pablo Escobar era, a Colombia narco's worst nightmare was being extradited to the United States, where prisons were less corrupt and he had to endure cold winters far from family.

That was one of the reasons why Escobar assassinated politicians and helped finance the M-19's attack on the Justice Palace in 1985. In the end, Escobar served time in a luxury 'prison' on a Medellin mountaintop, which he left whenever he wanted.

Some of today's Colombian criminals, however, might make a different choice.

Over recent years, Colombia has extradited a lot of paramilitary leaders to do time in the United States on narcotrafficking charges. That policy itself is burdened with injustices, since the paramilitaries' don't face justice for their most heinous crimes, such as massacre and torture, until later - if ever.

Now it looks like 'never' may be the more appropriate word.

Today's El Tiempo reports that in 'dozens of cases' paramilitaries have served time in U.S. prisons for drug trafficking charges and returned to Colombia, where authorities haven't picked them up on their much more serious human rights crimes. Examples include a man named Jairo Antonio Massu, who allegedly engineered the massacre of eight people, including two U.S. anti-drug agents.

The lack of punishment demonstrates a huge bungling on the part of U.S. law enforcement, as well as their seeming obsession with narcotrafficking crimes and nothing else.

Meanwhile, Colombians may discover that some of these men have returned to crime after returning home. If so, they may regret not having imprisoned them at home, even in a gilded cage.

As for the drug-obsessed American justice system, it may actually be doing these paramilitaries a favor, by punishing them only for their drug crimes, while their murders get forgotten.

The lesson here? If you're gonna commit mass murder and don't want to pay for it, then be sure to traffic drugs as well.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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