Former Colombian minister denies paramilitary ties

Colombia’s former Minister of Communications denied accusations of corruption made by a former member of defunct paramilitary group the AUC Monday.

In a letter to newspaper El Espectador, Maria del Rosario Guerra de la Espriella claimed to be “a victim of this strategy of criminal revenge against some of those who served with efficiency, honesty and love for Colombia in the historic government of President Alvaro Uribe Velez.”

Jose Gelvez Albarracin, alias “El Canoso,” told a Supreme Court judge that he had several meetings in the early 2000s with Senator Antonio Guerra de la Espriella, brother of Maria, to help establish a radio station promoting the AUC in return for paramilitary support in a future election. Albarracin claimed that Guerra de la Espriella used her communications position to assist her brother.

“I never met or recieved El Canoso, or any person outside of the law in my office when I was minister,” said the former minister.

She claimed that she awarded community radio stations during her tenure based on “open, objective, [and] transparent” negotiations that followed the rule of law.

Albarracin allegedly gave $450,000 to Senator Guerra de la Espriella for his successful election campaign in the northern department of Magdalena.

The senator was previously investigated for alleged paramilitary ties but a judge suspended the investigation in October 2011 due to a lack of evidence.

In a January testimony, the ex-paramilitary claimed that the former President of Congress, Javier Carceres Leal, accepted $400,000 from the AUC for his 2006 election campaign. At the time, he called upon all politicians involved in the “parapolitics” scandal to come forward and admit their wrongdoing.

Parapolitics is the term used to describe the infiltration of paramilitary organizations into Colombian political life during the presidency of Alvaro Uribe.

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