More Uribe aides to be charged, this time over paramilitary visit to presidential palace

Presidential palace "Casa de Nariño" (Image credit: President's Office)

Colombia’s prosecution is planning to file criminal charges against the former press secretary and the former judicial adviser of Colombian ex-president Alvaro Uribe for meeting with a paramilitary representative, reported Caracol Radio on Tuesday.

According to the radio station, former Press Secretary Cesar Mauricio Velasquez and former Judicial Secretary Edmundo del Castillo will have to respond before the court over accusations they conspired with demobilized paramilitaries to fabricate false accusations against members of the Supreme Court that was investigating ties between the demobilized paramilitary organization AUC and politicians.

Prosecutor reopens investigation into 2008 AUC-govt meeting

The former spokesman of paramilitary group AUC, Antonio “Job” Lopez, allegedly met with Velasquez, former Cauca governor Juan Jose Chaux, as well as Uribe’s then presidential adviser, current Senator Jose Obdulio Gaviria and former intelligence executive Marta Leal, who is currently in prison.

Two attorneys who were also present at the meeting, Diego Alvarez and Sergio Augusto Gonzalez, were also charged.

Alvarez was the defense attorney of paramilitary commander “Don Berna” and Gonzalez the attorney of paramilitary “Tasmania.”

The latter is already in prison for conspiring against the Supreme Court using false testimonies while Leal is in prison for spying on the court. Chaux is in jail while awaiting trial over his alleged ties to to the AUC.

Job was never able to testify on his meeting with the top officials as he was assassinated in a Medellin restaurant only months after the meeting.

According to Don Berna, the meeting in the presidential palace “gave more solidity to the relations we had with the national government” and was the beginning of a collaboration between demobilized paramilitaries, intelligence agency DAS and the Uribe government to conspire against the Supreme Court, which was investigating ties between paramilitaries and dozens of Uribe allies in Congress.

AUC collaborated with Uribe government, spy agency: Don Berna

Gaviria, a cousin of slain drug lord Pablo Escobar, dismissed Berna’s statements, telling Noticias Caracol that “this is the word of the one who is extradited against that of the one who extradited him.”

Uribe allies dismiss ‘Don Berna’ paramilitary ties allegations

However, Gaviria was infuriated when finding out it was not just the word of Berna, but also that of then-National Police director who had told the US embassy about his participation in the meeting and involvement in an elaborate plot that sought to discredit the court.

According to several courts, the AUC supported Uribe’s 2002 presidential campaign with donations and protection while also sponsoring the candidacy of dozens of congressmen elected that year and in the subsequent elections of 2006.

When the Supreme Court found out about these “parapolitics” practices in 2006, it began investigating the ties between what the US had deemed a terrorist organization and the politicians supporting Uribe in Congress. Since then, more than 50 former congressmen and seven former governors were sentenced to prison over their ties to the AUC.

In an attempt to counter these investigations, the President’s Office ordered the DAS to include the Supreme Court in an elaborate, but mostly clandestine wiretapping scheme that was already spying on journalists, human rights organizations and opposition politicians.

Uribe’s former chief of staff, Bernardo Moreno, and the then-DAS director, Maria del Pilar Hurtado were sentenced to prison over the illegal wiretapping.

Since leaving office in 2010, numerous of Uribe’s allies have been incarcerated over a wide range of charges while the former president himself is investigated by Congress for his own alleged ties to paramilitary forces.

The former president has consistently claimed the criminal charges are a political/criminal conspiracy to discredit him.

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