Congress president apologizes for lawmakers’ ties to paramilitary group

The president of Colombia’s Congress issued a formal apology over lawmakers’ ties to a paramilitary group in one of the country’s most conflict-ridden states, but failed to mention other lawmakers’ ties to other paramilitary groups in the remaining 31 states.

Norte de Santander

The televised message of Senator Jose David Name was broadcast to comply with a court order that ordered Congress to take responsibility and apologize to victims of paramilitary leader “El Iguano” who ran the Catatumbo Bloc of paramilitary umbrella organization AUC.

The apology was explicitly directed at a number of communities in Norte de Santander, a state in the north of Colombia that has seen seven congressmen disappear behind bars for using the paramilitary forces for their political or personal benefit.

Seven congressmen from the state were subsequently investigated for “parapolitics.” In total, 45 Colombian congressmen have been sentenced and sent to prison for using paramilitaries to coerce voters.

FACT SHEET: Parapolitics scandal

In the taped speech, the Congress president said that “never again can it be acceptable that the political forces in Congress that receive support from armed forces proclaim themselves to be representatives of society; never again can we tolerate political representation that is won with intimidation, constraint or support from the armed groups, as was the case with the convicted [former Senator] Ricardo Elcure, which is why I, on behalf of Congress, present you my sincere public apology.”

Elcure sentenced to six years in prison for having signed agreements with El Iguano. The disgraced lawmaker died in 2012.

Ironically, Name himself is under criminal investigation for his alleged ties to paramilitary commander “El Canoso.”

MORE: Colombia’s new Congress president already facing accusations of corruption, parapolitics

The Congress president ended his speech saying that “the widespread terror to the population, the massive displacement of families, the loss of confidence in the institutions of justice, the targeted killings, the forced disappearances … these are all things that can not be repeated.”


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