More Politicians Linked to Paramilitaries in Colombia
News from Colombia |
on: Friday, 27 February 2009
In the latest phase of what has become known in Colombia as the 'parapolitica scandal', the Colombian Supreme Court has ordered a close ally of President Uribe to answer questions about his links to a rightwing paramilitary death squad. Ex-Senator Carlos Garcia, the former chairman of the pro-Uribe 'Partido de la U', was called to appear by the court on February 25th to answer questions about an alleged deal he made with the AUC paramilitary group to help get him elected in the region of Tolima. The scandal has so far seen around 70 politicians with links to the President investigated for their paramilitary ties.
On January 30th Senator Adriana Gutierrez, another close Uribe ally also from the 'Partido de la U', resigned her seat in Congress in an effort to escape investigation for her own AUC links. The Supreme Court opened an investigation into her after photos taken in the province of Caldas were published in which she and current finance minister, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, could be seen in the company of a well-known paramilitary. E-mails were subsequently found showing contact with paramilitary commander Ernesto Baez.
Numerous politicians in Uribe's coalition have been found to have allied themselves with the paramilitaries in recent years. The links range from taking donations from drug trafficking paramilitary commanders, to full-scale electoral pacts in which the paramilitaries would chose the candidate and murder, or threaten to murder, those who dared stand against them.
All of the 70 or so politicians involved are supporters of President Uribe including his cousin, Senator Mario Uribe, and several of those instrumental in getting him elected in 2002. In addition, the investigations have implicated several senior military officers, business leaders and even the President himself, whom witnesses have accused of meeting with paramilitary leaders on several occasions.
Colombia's Supreme Court, which is tasked with investigating the scandal, has complained that the Attorney General's office is delaying cases against many of the politicians involved. Such complaints have further fuelled rumours that the office of the Attorney General has been infiltrated by the paramilitaries too. Rather than supporting the investigations, President Uribe has responded by repeatedly attacking the Supreme Court and accusing several of the judges of political bias.
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