Less than a year before Colombia’s 2014 elections, the country’s Supreme Court ordered the arrest of a presidential primary candidate for former President Alvaro Uribe’s party. The presidential hopeful is under investigation for his alleged ties to paramilitary groups.
The order to arrest Luis Alfredo Ramos, the former governor of the Antioquia department, is a major shock for the “Uribistas” as Ramos joins two other primary candidates with criminal investigations pending against them.
The Democratic Center party has five primary candidates.
The two other candidates with alleged paramilitary links are Uribe’s former Vice-President and President Juan Manuel Santos’ cousin, Francisco Santos, and Uribe’s former Finance Minister, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.
Uribe himself is also being investigated by both the Prosecutor General’s Office and a Congressional committee.
In response to the arrest order, the Center Democratic party told press that Ramos “temporarily abandons the presidential campaign in order to dutifully attend the requirements of the authorities.”
The presidential hopeful’s arrest order comes at a time of great political tensions as the president, Uribe’s former Defense Minister, is trying to negotiate peace with the FARC, is under heavy criticism for his handling of rural unrest, and is expected to run for a reelection set to be held next summer.
The court order for Ramos additionally follows the sentencing of dozens of former congressmen and governors who were also convicted for paramilitary ties.
FACT SHEET: Parapolitics
Uribe’s former former intelligence chief and personal security chief have also been convicted for their ties to groups belonging to paramilitary umbrella organization AUC.
The former president’s then-chief of staff and a second intelligence chief have been charged with the illegal wiretapping of political opponents, while Uribe’s former agriculture minister is on trial for allegedly embezzling $25 million.
The former president has firmly defended his political allies and also on Wednesday Tweeted to believe in the innocence of his now-former presidential candidate.
Tengo convicción que Luis Alfredo Ramos no ha tenido alianza con criminales.
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) August 28, 2013
The criminal convictions of his allies and even family members have increasingly politically isolated Uribe, who has become a staunch critic of his successor. The criminal investigations and convictions, and a dominant coalition in Congress supporting Santos, has reduced Uribe-loyal lawmakers to less than five.
Three years after having left the presidential palace, Uribe’s popular following has shrunk, while according to polls his candidates are unable to form a political threat for Santos’ possible reelection.