Demobilized paramilitary organization AUC spent more than $134 thousand in the northern department of Cordoba to support the successful 2002 presidential campaign of Alvaro Uribe, said a former ally of both the AUC and Uribe in an interview published Sunday.
Former congressman Miguel de la Espriella, who was one of the first politicians to be sentenced for his ties to the paramilitaries, told newspaper El Espectador that the $134 thousand was spent on t-shirts that were donated to the local campaign manager of Uribe and excluded the cost of transporting voters on election day.
The disgraced lawmaker’s assertion came only weeks after De la Espriella and Eleonora Pineda, another politician for ties to the AUC, told a court that Uribe had been aware of financial and logistical support of the ACCU, a paramilitary group active in the northwest of Colombia, for the campaign in the Cordoba department.
According to De la Espriella, he, Pineda and fellow-lawmaker Mario Uribe — the former President’s cousin — were employed by the paramilitary group in 2001 to mediate between the ACCU and Uribe. All three were later convicted for conspiring with paramilitary groups, popularly known as “parapolitics.”
De la Espriella told El Espectador that ACCU commander Salvator Mancuso, who became the supreme leader of the AUC in 2004, told him and Pineda “that our participation in the self defense forces was to seek a deal with his [Uribe’s] government. He [Uribe] did not explicitly reject this possibility or the support. What he did say was that we wait and if he got elected we would talk again.”
Uribe has fiercely denied having known of the paramilitary support for his campaign as asserted in court by Mancuso, other paramilitary commanders and the former lawmakers. The former president threatened last week to sue his former allies over the allegations.