According to website Verdadabierta, various ex-paramilitary leaders including Salvatore Mancuso and Jorge Ivan Laverde, alias “El Iguano,” from the AUC Catatumbo block told officials in court how they economically and logistically supported Uribe’s presidential campaign.
El Iguano said that no evidence exists of these financial transactions because the groups burned all of their paramilitary records before they demobilized. Former AUC head Mancuso, who has testified on several occasions that the paramilitaries supported Uribe’s first campaign, led his organization’s demobilization between 2003 and 2006 in coordination with the Uribe administration.
According to El Iguano, each paramilitary group had a box of petty cash destined towards Uribe’s campaign. The Catatumbo block in the north of Colombia contributed over $55,000 in petty cash alone. They would use the money to purchase shirts with the then-candidate’s slogan, as well as provide transport and refreshments for voting tables on election day and at political meetings.
The former paramilitary leaders testified in court of their collaboration with government officials in the region.
“In the cottage Villa Patricia in Aguas Claras we met with 18 local heads of the campaign of then candidate Uribe. The meeting started at 11 in the morning and ended in the afternoon,” said El Iguano.
Mancuso has also said that Uribe was aware of the support. “There were previous meetings with members of Alvaro Uribe’s campaign, including those delegates that asked us to decrease military operations because it was affecting the campaign and image of the candidate,” said Mancuso.
According to El Iguano, the support of the ex-president all began when the righthand man of AUC creator Carlos Castaño called all groups to give them the order that they must support the Uribe campaign and spend money where necessary.
“They told us that we had to support Alvaro Uribe and they asked us to pay security of the voting tables that were in the region of Cucuta, Gabarra and Tibu in Norte de Santander, which was already a zone with substantial guerrilla presence,” said El Iguano.
The ex-paramilitary testified that local authorities including mayors and council members were aware of these acts. “It was something public, and it was evident because of the massive form and lack of precidence in which farmers came out to vote,” said El Iguano.
Ex-president Uribe has responded to the accusations in a report where he denied meeting with paramilitaries and announced that he would present “a criminal complaint against the former paramilitary for libel.”
Uribe has consistently denied having received paramilitary support. The ex-president hopes to advance investigations and has repeatedly demanded that Mancuso prove his accusations against him as well as his brother Santiago Uribe who allegedly participated in a plot against Colombia’s Supreme Court.