MANHATTAN (CN) – A leader of Colombian death squads pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to import tons of cocaine into the United States. Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano was a top commander in the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, (United Self-Defense of Colombia), a powerful group of right-wing landowners who formed death squads to fight the left-wing FARC and the peasants who support it.
The United States considers both the AUC and the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) terrorist organizations.
Federal prosecutors said Murillo led the AUC’s drug trafficking arm, which brought multi-ton loads of cocaine to the United States, often by boat, and smuggled cash back to Colombia. Murillo pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to import and distribute tons of cocaine. The sentencing range for this is 10 years to life in prison, but the United States, in extraditing Murillo from Colombia, promised not to seek a life sentence. Murillo’s plea deal calls for a sentence of 324 to 405 months in prison. He will be sentenced on Dec. 18.