Four of the 31 congressional candidates of former President Alvaro Uribe’s Democratic Center party are in the midst of ongoing criminal investigations, making a mockery of the party’s self-imposed “legal filter.”
Alejandro Arbelaez, Director of the Democratic Center, in August explained that candidates were required to pass through four filters in order to be considered for selection. One such filter was “legal,” i.e that candidates have no legal issues preventing them from being elected to Congress.
But the party’s self imposed legal filter has failed to recognize criminal investigations pending against former President Alvaro Uribe and a further three congressional candidates.
The former President’s alleged paramilitary links are currently under investigation by the Prosecutor General’s office and earlier this month a Medellin judge ordered a criminal investigation of the politician’s alleged ties to paramilitary organisation AUC.
Only last month, the former head of state was labelled “the head of Colombia’s paramilitary groups” by former paramilitary commander “Alberto Guerrero”, a witness in the case against a presidential candidate loyal to Uribe.
Furthermore Uribe, who held the Presidency between 2002 and 2010, is under investigation for the illegal wiretapping of political opponents, the Supreme Court, human rights organisations and journalists.
Alleged crimes committed during a president’s term must be investigated by the House of Representatives’ Accusations Committee, which has been investigating Uribe’s alleged role in the illegal wiretapping conspiracy.
Uribe has categorically denied that he had ties to the AUC and claims that he is the victim of “political persecution.”
Jose Obdulio Gaviria
Jose Obdulio Gaviria, personal adviser to Uribe during his Presidency, is under investigation for his involvement in the “wiretap scandal”, as mentioned above.
The scandal broke in 2009, as it was revealed that the DAS, the Colombian President’s internal intelligence agency, had been carrying out a campaign of wiretaps and surveillance on political opponents, the Supreme Court, human rights organisations and journalists.
The DAS targeted some of Colombia’s most prominent human rights groups, as well as labor leaders and independent journalists.
Judges and political opponents, those who had tendencies to oppose government policy were also targeted.
According to diplomatic cables released in 2011 by WikiLeaks, former director of the DAS Andres Peñate accused Gaviria of ordering illegal wiretapping.
According to then-US ambassador William Brownfield, “Obdulio Gaviria continued to deny involvement, but both CNP Chief Naranjo and former DAS Director Andres Peñate have separately told us that Gaviria in the past has pushed DAS to spy on the government’s political opponents.”
In November 2011, President Juan Manuel Santos, who served as Defense Minister when the wiretap scandal broke, formally dissolved the DAS that had been stained by numerous scandal while operating under Uribe.
Rafael Nieto, former Minister of Justice under Uribe’s administration, is also under investigation for the DAS wiretapping scandal detailed above.
Ana Mercedes, former publisher of Colombian newspaper El Colombiano, is under investigation for her links to the AIS corruption scandal.
The AIS scandal accuses former Minister Andres Felipe Arias of embezzling $25 million through the Agro Ingreso Seguro (AIS), a government program charged with providing subsidies to struggling farmers that ended up funneling money to wealthy families, a former Miss Colombia, drug traffickers and Ana Mercedes Gomez.
In 2010 Gomez received a subsidy of approximately $42,000, money that she used to finance a greenhouse.
Under Gomez’ stewardship, El Colombiano retained close links to President Uribe, yet the publication was relatively timid in its unconditional support for the former president after Uribe ally and El Colombiano columnist Andres Felipe Arias was sent to jail for the scandal in 2011. Arias was released on bail in June 2013.
A criminal investigation pending on the party’s founder, Alvaro Uribe is enough to discredit the self imposed “legal filter” alone. Yet with investigations pending on a further three congressional candidates, the Democratic Center has left themselves vulnerable for such criticism and leaves their judgement in serious question.
- Colombia’s Domestic Spying Scandal (Center for International Policy’s Colombia Program)
- Magistrado Pide Investigar A Uribe Por Presuntos Nexos Con ‘Paras’ (El Tiempo)
- Investigation Into Uribe’s ‘Paramilitary Ties’ Reopened (Insight Crime)
- Diplomatic cables incriminating Jose Obdulio Gaviria (WikeLeaks) – Not available in full