Colombia’s ex-President Alvaro Uribe claimed he is the victim of “criminal vengeance” as he denied ordering wiretaps on political opponents and having links to paramilitaries, in front of the commission investigating his alleged role in the DAS wiretapping scandal on Thursday.
In a marathon four-hour session Uribe told investigators of the House of Representatives’ Accusations Commission that his government and his family are being persecuted by “a plot between people I extradited, with their supposed victims, to abuse my family.”
Although he was questioned on a wide range of issues, the primary aim of the commission was to investigate Uribe’s role in the “chuzadas” scandal, in which Supreme Court justices, left-wing politicians, and human rights workers were wiretapped by Colombia’s intelligence agency, the DAS.
Uribe’s former chief of staff was sent to jail while awaiting trial while his former intelligence chief fled the country before being charged with the illegal wiretapping of Supreme Court judges, journalists, opposition politicians and human rights groups.
Uribe claimed he always told DAS directors that the organization could not function as a “political police force.” He added, “Our path was institutional and with democratic authority.”
He denied ordering the interception of the communications of journalist Daniel Coronell, who sued Uribe and his sons for slander after they called him a “mafioso,” “murderer,” “conman” and an “extortionist.” Uribe said, “it never crossed my mind to give illegal instructions”.
Uribe maintained that press freedom had increased during his presidency, saying when his administration began, journalists were “mute” out of fear of terrorists
However, the ex-president admitted asking DAS to investigate Piedad Cordoba following the death of one of the ex-senator’s escorts, which she blamed on the government, and after she invited other countries to break off relations with Colombia in a conference in Mexico.
The commission questioned Uribe on Maria del Pilar Hurtado, the former DAS chief who fled to Panama, unlawful violation of communications, misuse of public office, breach of public duty and falsification of public documents. He maintained that Hurtado was a person of “great ethical and professional qualities”
In response to the claims of several ex-directors of the DAS who said Hurtado confessed that the president’s office requested wiretaps, Uribe asked the commission to take into account that the allegations were made by witnesses negotiating with the Prosecutor General’s office.
Uribe also claimed that he had been a victim of illegal phone tapping himself on at least two occasions. He said the evidence for this was the revelations he insulted a former campaign aid embroiled in a corruption scandal and the details of a conversation with ex-President of the Supreme Court Cesar Julio Valencia Copete, who he called to discuss the accusations of ex-paramilitary boss “Tasmania.”
The commission also questioned Uribe on the alleged links between him, his family and paramilitaries. He stated that his brother Santiago, accused of organizing a meeting between two paramilitary bosses, was the victim of a paramilitary smear campaign.
He also rejected claims from Jose Gelvez Albarracin, alias “El Canso,” that the paramilitary had held talks with his sons Tomas and Jeromino in a secret meeting in the Tayrona national park.
Uribe also denied receiving election campaign funding from paramilitaries and that he was involved in plans of Sierra Nevada and Santa Marta paramilitaries and businessman Jean Claude Bessudo to exploit tourism in the area.
According to the ex-president, all the allegations came after his decision to extradite the chiefs of demobilized paramilitary group the AUC to the United States “unleashed an incitement to vengeance.”