The guilty plea of former President Alvaro Uribe‘s security chief who admitted to working with paramilitary groups prompted discussions in Colombia’s congress Tuesday to come up with measures to prevent dirty officials being promoted again.
Retired presidential security chief General Mauricio Santoyo pleaded guilty to aiding paramilitary and drug-trafficking groups between 2001 and 2008, and while working as chief security aide to former President Uribe between 2002 – 2005.
Santoyo’s admission has prompted Congress to convene to discuss measures to regulate the promotion process through legislation.
Mira Senator Alexandra Moreno sought to establish regulation whereupon the candidate for promotion should be publicly announced by the presidency and an open judicial process would ensure the virtue of the candidate.
According to Moreno this process would “ensure greater transparency” by giving more power to the Second Committee of the Senate where promotions are made.
Liberal Senator Juan Fernando Cristo said that the lie-detector test is a route that “must be evaluated” not only for promotions but for the Ministry of Defense and the armed forces to ensure they would “never make mistakes,” according to newspaper El Tiempo.
“Santoyo reported to and protected the paramilitaries – more than five years with Uribe and no one suspected?” Asked Cristo on twitter Tuesday, “That is outrageous and unacceptable.”
Congress president Roy Barreras said it is important to know the truth and the details of Santoyo’s relationship with paramilitaries. “When the country is in a process of purification it is only healthy that its institutions know the truth,” said Barreras.
Santoyo, who in November will be sentenced for his ties to terrorist organizations, was named Uribe’s personal security chief in 2002 after having provided protection while the former president was on campaign. By then he already was spying for the paramilitary AUC and was at that moment being investigated for the illegal spying on a human rights organization in Medellin, an investigation that was not abandoned until 2003 due to lack of evidence, according to the IPC press agency.
Although acquitted by the prosecutor general’s office, Santoyo was handed down a punitive ruling, barring him from holding public office for five years. This sanction was suspended by the Council of State in 2005 which ruled that Santoyo could remain active while his appeal was in progress, and the following year the then Defense Minister and current president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, ordered his provisional reinstatement by Decree 2635 of December 2006.
This ruling allowed Santoyo to be promoted to Brigadier General in 2007, which eight senators voted for and four against. The promotion had in any case been signed by Uribe two days previously.
Colombia has a track record of double-dealing in business and politics with some 11,000 Colombian politicians, officials and businessmen implicated in “parapolitics,” the engagement with paramilitary organizations.