Colombia’s imprisoned former health minister allegedly wants to be included in a recently approved transitional justice system, a tremendous blow for former President Alvaro Uribe whose political future is at stake.
According to former Minister Alvaro Leyva (Conservative Party), former Minister Diego Palacio and two imprisoned generals requested to be tried before the war crimes tribunal that was agreed in a peace deal with Marxist FARC guerrillas.
Palacio was imprisoned in 2015 after the Supreme Court sentenced him to six years and eight months in prison for bribing congress in 2004 to allow the 2006 reelection of Uribe.
The two generals who asked to be included did so for their participation in war crimes, respectively the forced disappearance of innocent civilians in the 1985 Palace of Justice siege and the 1997 paramilitary massacre in Mapiripan, a coca-rich town in central Colombia.
Palacio’s act of corruption, however, is not a war crime.
But, according to newspaper El Tiempo, sources close to the politician said that the former minister has claimed the bribery of congressmen was part of a strategy to maintain Uribe’s so-called “Democratic Security” policy in tact until at least 2010.
While strictly speaking an act of corruption, Palacio’s actions effectively secured the continuation of the policy whose main goal was to defeat the FARC, according to the sources.
However, Uribe and his Democratic Security policy have been marred by the paramilitary infiltration of government and the mass execution of thousands of innocent civilians who were falsely reported as combat kills.
The newspaper said that sources close to the peace process, including FARC attorney Enrique Santiago, were open to Palacio’s interpretation.
However, the final decision or whether or not to allow the former minister to leave prison and await a new trial lies with the judges who have yet to be selected by an international panel of judicial experts.
If allowed, Palacio will be allowed to leave prison and await his second trial and his appearance before the Truth Commission from home. If again declared guilty, but with Palacio’s voluntary and full disclosure of events, he would be pardoned for not having committed any war crimes.
This full disclosure of events could cause tremendous damage to the political future of Uribe, who has vehemently opposed to the peace process, partly because of the far-stretching political implications.
Courts on several occasions have ordered investigations into the former president for his alleged complicity in multiple war crimes.
The transitional justice system will try some 17,700 (former) FARC members, at least 24,400 state officials and another 12,500 civilians accused of actively supporting terrorism.