Thursday, April 3, 2014

What's a Life Worth? It Depends.

On their way to the States. Taxi drivers to be extradited for the murder of U.S. DEA agent James Watson. (Photo: El Tiempo)
What's a life worth?

It depends a lot on who you are and where you're from, it seems.

Today's headlines report that seven Colombians who participated in the kidnap/murder of U.S. DEA
Murdered DEA agent James Watson. 
agent James 'Terry' Watson last June will be extradited to the U.S., where each could spend 45 years in prison.

It's not what these guys expected when they decided to mug a man leaving a ritzy bar in Bogotá's upper-crust Parque de la 93 neighborhood. After all, most muggers undoubtedly are never arrested, and those who are spend little time in prison. But Watson fought back and his assailants stabbed him fatally.

Now, that single murder - which may not have been intentional - could send men to prison for a grand total of 315 years.

Don't get me wrong. These guys are predators, and deserve many years of punishment - perhaps even 45 years each. They belonged to a band which had undoubtedly committed lots of muggings, and very possibly other murders.

Ramon Isaza and paramilitary troops. (Photo: Semana)
But it's hard to ignore the contrast with the punishment of some of Colombia's vicious ex-paramilitary leaders, seven of whom who are soon to complete eight-year prison terms agreed to under the controversial Peace and Justice Law negotiated during the presidency of Alvaro Uribe.

Among those expected to be released are Ramon Isaza, a paramilitary leader from the Magdalena Medio region, where paramilitary groups murdered some 1,500 people, some of them after brutal tortures, according to government investigators. Making the not-unrealistic assumption that Isaza had responsibility in that number of killings, he paid less than two days' prison time for each victim.

Ex-paramilitary leader Banquez Martinez talks to victims
of his fighters. (Photo: El Universal)
Another ex-paramilitary commander expected to be released soon is Úber Banquez Martínez, alias El Salado Massacre in the year 2000, in which perhaps more than 100 people were murdered, many with chainsaws, including a six-year-old girl and a 65-year-old woman. The paramilitaries got drunk and played loud music while raping, torturing and murdering their victims, who included pregnant women.  Then they played soccer with their heads.
'Juancho Dique', who commanded the

That was only one of a half-dozen massacres commanded by Banquez Martinez. But, considering only El Salado, he served less than one month for each killing.

Nobody believes that the justice system is really fair or just. But, couldn't punishments be a little less inequitable?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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