After the conviction of Colombia’s spy chief and the former presidential chief of staff, the investigations into what could be called Colombia’s Watergate have now reached the doorstep of former President Alvaro Uribe.
The former president has long been calling the wiretapping investigations part of a political persecution that is orchestrated by his successor, current President Juan Manuel Santos, and the Prosecutor General, Eduardo Montealegre.
However, this claim has weakened as more and more evidence has come to the public eye about a series of crimes carried out by members of the Uribe administration and his coalition in Congress.
Uribe’s tumbling house of cards
Of the multiple scandals that have discredited the former president, the DAS wiretapping scandal is closest to forcing the political death and even the incarceration of Uribe.
According to an excessive body of evidence and multiple former government employees, the now-defunct DAS spied of the Supreme Court, journalists, human rights organizations and opposition politicians, or seemingly anyone deemed inconvenient for Uribe.
While victims of the wiretapping consistently have pointed to Uribe as the mastermind in the political persecution of his enemies, the former president has denied this in spite of the fact that the DAS reported to no-one but the president.
And until Friday, the links in the chain of command that could really incriminate Uribe were missing.
Now, with former chief of staff Bernardo Moreno and former DAS director Maria del Pilar convicted of the spying practices, there is nobody left in the chain of command to shield Uribe from the accusations made by nearly all the executives of the DAS; That the ultimate order for the spying had come from “number one,” Uribe.
If Uribe knew of the illegal spying, the persons who could have informed them are or shield him from knowing were Hurtado and Moreno, bringing the prosecution to the doorstep of the former president.
Whistleblowing ‘almost inevitable’
“It’s almost inevitable they will open a criminal investigation against Uribe, moreover because it has become evident that illegal activities were carried out,” political scientist Jairo Libreros told French news agency AFP.
Additionally, said the scholar, “it is obvious that someone gave the order and it was neither the Chief of Staff Moreno nor the DAS director.”
According to Libreros, the former president has more than enough reasons to be concerned about his future.
“The situation for Uribe will worsen if Hurtado decides to request a lower sentence in exchange for information, because if anybody knew who was giving the orders it’s her,” said Libreros, adding that “these persons could only be in the Casa de Nariño [presidential palace].”
Both Moreno and Hurtado face up to 10 years in prison for their conviction, giving them solid reasons to seek a deal with the judge. The Supreme Court is set to sentence the two former top officials within two weeks.
The ‘Uribista’ legal troubles
In the 1990s, when Uribe became governor of his home Antioquia state, he usted a brief period in which self-defense groups were legal to sign off on the creation on a number of self-defense groups that later became members groups of the illegal paramilitary organization AUC.
This vicinity to the creation of the AUC recently became another legal issue for Uribe when a court ordered a criminal investigation to determine whether Uribe was complicit in a 1997 paramilitary massacre.
More than 45 congressmen — the vast majority of whom were part of the majority coalition supporting Uribe’s two administrations between 2002 and 2010 –were sentenced to prison for ties to these paramilitary groups. One of the convicted Congressman was Uribe’s own cousin, Mario Uribe.
Uribe’s brother Santiago is investigated for allegedly founding and leading a paramilitary group that ended up killing leftist activist or politicians.
As if that isn’t enough, Uribe saw two of his former intelligence chief convicted for crimes, one for ties to the AUC and the second, Hurtado, for spying of opponents of Uribe.
Two of Uribe’s hand-picked personal security chiefs are currently serving time in the United States for their ties to the paramilitaries.
Uribe’s former agricultural minister was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the embezzling of millions of dollars from funds reserved to support poor farmers.
Two former ministers are still facing trial in Colombia for the 2004 bribery of Congressmen to vote in favor of a constitutional reform that in 2006 allowed Uribe’s reelection.
The peace commissioner of the Uribe administrations is hiding in Canada after he was charged with faking the demobilization of a fictitious FARC unit only days before the same 2006 elections.
“Uribe has been surrounded by criminals,” according to leftist opposition Senator Ivan Cepeda, one of the former president’s most vocal political adversaries and a victim of the illegal wiretapping practices.
The former president disagrees. In a tweet on Sunday, Uribe insisted that Prosecutor General Montealegre had charged Moreno and Hurtado “not because they are guilty, but for belonging to a political adversary.”
Montealegre did in fact not file the charges against the two Uribe aides. This was done before Uribe had left office and Montealegre took office.