Colombia's Attorney General's Office Reopens Investigation into Former President Alvaro Uribe's Links to Paramilitaries
Gaudin, Andres, NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs
In the midst of a relatively peaceful spring in which the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) observed a unilateral cease-fire, and, in Cuba, the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC rebels continued some auspicious conversations to cement the peace, the nefarious parapolitica scandal returned to the forefront of Colombian institutional life (NotiSur, Sept. 12, 2008). Parapolitica is a popular term coined to describe the murky intrigue in which the interests of rightist politicians and criminal groups (drug traffickers and paramilitaries) overlapped.
And there, on center stage, ex-President Alvaro Uribe Velez (2002-2010) suddenly reappeared. For two years, various "friendly" judges had tried to keep all investigations that had Uribe as a protagonist closed. But on Jan. 8, the attorney general's office reopened the investigation into ties between the former president and the paramilitary Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) while Uribe was governor of the northeastern department of Antioquia (1994-1997). The belated judicial decision reviews a denunciation by Polo Democratico Alternativo (PDA) Deputy Ivan Cepeda, who, in early 2011, presented several audiotapes of two jailed paramilitaries who provided overwhelming evidence against the former president.
After the principal criminal leaders, who had been extradited to the US, denounced Uribe as a key figure in the armed groups of the Colombian right, two paramilitaries housed in local jails agreed to talk with Cepeda, who visited them in his role as president of the Comision de Derechos Humanos of the Chamber of Deputes. Juan Guillermo Monsalve and Pablo Hernan Sierra--held in different jails after availing themselves of the "demobilization program" for guerrillas and paramilitaries--gave similar information that put Uribe in a bind legally (NotiSur, Nov. 4, 2011, and May 25, 2012).
Monsalve, the son of the overseer at Las Guacharacas estate, one of Uribe's properties in Antioquia, said that he joined the AUC's Bloque Metro as soon as he was of legal age. He said the ex--president created that paramilitary group and his assistants were his brother Santiago and cousins Luis and Juan Villegas Uribe.
Monsalve's story to Cepeda agrees with that of Sierra, especially in two points that, if confirmed, could lead to a lengthy prison sentence for the former president. Both paramilitaries said that Uribe was the military chief of Bloque Metro and, as such, ordered various mass killings of campesinos, most notably one in the municipality of San Roque in which 67 people were killed. Uribe put his cousin Luis in charge of handling the group's businesses, basically involving the cocinas and the tubos, said Monsalve. The jailed paramilitary said that, in the jargon of the criminal gangs, cocinas referred to the laboratories where cocaine was produced and tubos to the practice of stealing fuel by puncturing pipelines, a common paramilitary practice that results in costly losses to the Colombian state.
Not the only allegations of wrongdoing by Uribe
If the allegations against Uribe are proven, he would become the highest-ranking politician linked to parapolitica. "This is the first time a legal investigation has been opened against the ex-president for serious crimes, which even involve massacres like that of San Roque, which happened in Antioquia during his time as governor," said Cepeda in an interview Jan. 8 with the conservative Colombian daily El Espectador.
Previously, the opposition deputy had alleged that Uribe was responsible for the scandal involving espionage and harassment of political leaders, judges, journalists, and human rights activists carried out by the now-defunct Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS), the domestic intelligence service that reported directly to the president (NotiSur, May 12, 2006).
Cepeda was also the first to allege wrongdoing by Gen. …