Former paramilitary leader deported to Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — One of Colombia’s most wanted paramilitary leaders was flown back to his home country on Monday after spending 12 years in U.S. prisons for drug trafficking.

Rodrigo Tovar, also known as Jorge 40, arrived on a deportation flight and was escorted by police to a room where officers took his fingerprints. The 69-year-old former warlord sported a graying beard and wore glasses, a face-mask and a blue jacket.

“He is being held by immigration officials and the police” National Peace Comissioner Miguel Ceballos wrote on Twitter. “And he will have to answer for the crimes he has committed.”

Once a local government official in his hometown of Valledupar, Tovar became one of Colombia’s most feared paramilitary leaders in the first decade of this century, when right wing militias fought leftist guerrillas for control of large swathes of the country.

He joined peace negotiations conducted by the administration of Alvaro Uribe, which led to the disarmament of thousands of paramilitary fighters in 2006. But Tovar was extradited to the U.S. on drug trafficking charges two years later along with a handful of former paramilitary leaders. Tovar accepted charging coca growers a fee for operating in his territories, but denied having direct involvement in trafficking.

Colombian prosecutors have accused Tovar of masterminding several mass killings in rural Colombia, including an incident in the town of El Salado, where 60 civilians were killed and dismembered by paramilitary fighters who accused them of backing a guerrilla group.

Tovar faces 35 arrest orders in Colombia and hundreds of investigation for alleged war crimes. His former mentor and associate, Salvatore Mancuso, is fighting deportation to Colombia after also serving a drug trafficking sentence in the U.S.

Tovar’s son Jorge, joined President Iván Duque’s administration as a consultant last year. In May he was put in charge of a department within the Ministry of the Interior that works on policies for victims of the nation’s decades old conflict.