The contradictory Mr. Uribe
What does the Colombian
By Matías Mongan
Just as several paramilitary
commanders appeared ready to tell the truth about their links with the political
power, the government of Álvaro Uribe arranged for their removal to the Itagüi
The ramifications of "parapolitics"
continue to surprise all of Colombia, to the point that federal prosecutors
ordered the arrest of the former president of the Deportivo Pereira soccer club,
The prosecutors also
interrogated soccer players Rafael Castillo and Luis Felipe Chará to find out if
money-laundering operations by the paramilitary organizations are behind the
sale of soccer players to foreign teams.
As part of the investigation,
the Supreme Court of Justice summoned Miguel de la Espriella to give more
explanations about his links with the paramilitary group United Self-Defense
Forces of Colombia (AUC). The Congressman, an ally of President Uribe (who
admitted meeting with AUC leaders in 2001), also will have to respond to charges
made by the Attorney General, Mario Iguarán, in connection with two checks made
out to De la Espriella by drug trafficker Luis Enrique Ramírez, a partner of the
late chief of the Medellín cartel, Pablo Escobar.
Previously, De la Espriella
also was implicated in another scandal that produced a grave crisis in the
Colombian political system: the so-called "Process 8000." The scandal implicated
then-President Ernesto Samper, accused of receiving funding from drug
traffickers for his election campaign. Eventually, Samper and De la Espriella
(who, according to some witnesses, was the man who received the money) were
In statements to the National
Radio Network, the legislator said he will release a document written after a
1998 meeting between several political leaders and the main leaders of the AUC.
"I'm going to release that document today, and I call on the people who have the
document from the 2001 meeting to turn it over to the competent authorities,
because it is part of the truth that we all should know," De la Espriella said.
On many occasions, President
Uribe has emphasized the need for all State functionaries to "bring to the
light" all irregularities, so the Colombian people may see the real magnitude of
the links between the political power and the paramilitary forces.
However, barely a few days
before the main AUC commanders were to testify in court, the president arranged
for their transfer from the La Ceja recreational center to the Itagüi
maximum-security prison. According to the government, the step was taken because
the paramilitaries allegedly were planning to escape. Also, according to
official sources, the men may have been responsible for the deaths of some of
their aides, to keep them from making compromising statements to the
Uribe himself warned Salvatore
Mancuso and company that if they "misbehaved" he might withdraw the legal
benefits they enjoy thanks to the peace agreement signed in April 2002. That
announcement led the governments of the U.S. and Italy to express interest in
the extradition of the main leader of the AUC, who was sentenced in Colombia to
40 years' imprisonment for the deaths of several peasants.
However, by pleading the
protection of the Colombian "Law for Justice and Peace," Mancuso got his
sentence reduced to only five years' imprisonment.
Contrary to the official
version, Attorney General Mario Iguarán said that there is "no element or
information that allows us at present to reasonably infer that [the AUC
detainees] were planning an escape or that they arranged for the murder of other
persons." The transfer of the men to Itagüi resulted in the paramilitaries
breaking up relations with the government.
To attempt to solve the
conflict afflicting Uribe's administration and revive the dialogue, mediators
from the Roman Catholic Church and the Organization of American States (OAS)
decided to meet with AUC representatives. According to Msgr. Luis Augusto
Castro, it is necessary to write an official document to prevent any
short-circuits in the peace agreement.
"This has been difficult, and
the self-defense forces unilaterally broke relations because they felt trampled
on and deceived," Msgr. Castro said. "We must write things down and show them to
the country, so people may know what was promised and what agreements were
reached." Also, the people must make sure "that both sides [in the talks] will
fulfill their commitments," he added.
At this point, it is valid to
ask whether President Uribe's attitude is contradictory or not. On one hand, he
says he is "in favor of bringing everything to the light." On the other, he
implements an intimidating measure just before the paramilitary commanders have
to testify in court -- knowing full well that the paramilitaries had announced
their intention to reveal all their links to the political power.
Could this be considered as a
desperate threat that seeks to censure the principal leaders of the AUC and thus
keep the Mafia connections of the political system from coming to light?
In a communiqué titled "For
Colombia To Be Reborn," the Army of National Liberation (ELN) stated that both
the Colombian oligarchy and the United States are guilty of spawning a
paramilitary monster "that is responsible for the genocide of half a million of
our compatriots and the displacement of four million others."
The guerrilla group claims that
the "narco-paramilitaries" have taken over the regional administrations,
penetrated the police forces and important sectors of the executive branch. It
also stated that Plan Colombia fails as a repressive element because it attempts
"to restrain the popular uprising through state-sponsored terrorism."
Finally, the ELN guerrillas
stressed the need to create a new institutionality by means of a Constituent
process. Undoubtedly, this idea is very interesting, because it can allow the
refounding of a political system that (as everyone knows) is thoroughly infected
by corruption and links to criminal organizations.
Obviously, the principal
opponent of this initiative -- an initiative that could lead to an end of the
crisis afflicting Colombia -- is President Uribe, who, by resorting to
contradictions, will try to confuse the Colombian people in an effort to
perpetuate himself in power.
From APM, the Mercosur Press