The paramilitary group allegedly formed by the brother of former President Alvaro Uribe carried out a many as 533 homicides, according to weekly Semana that was leaked the prosecution’s case file on the rancher.
Santiago Uribe was called to trial on Friday after spending the past half year in jail awaiting the trial over his alleged role in the formation of paramilitary group “The 12 Apostles” in Yarumal, Antioquia in the early 1990s.
While the group was originally formed to carry out “social cleansing” in the area around Yarumal, the prosecution claims the group ended up murdering all kinds of people including housewives, farmers and police inspectors.
The majority of witnesses of Uribe’s alleged involvement in the death squad have been murdered since the case first came to light in 1997, but not all, according to the 280-page case file.
The star witnesses
The prosecution material exposed Uribe will be confronted in court with two star witnesses, the local police commander in Yarumal at the time, Juan Carlos Meneses, and Eunicio Pineda, the farmhand of Uribe’s neighbor and alleged fellow-founder of the group, rancher Alvaro Vasquez.
Meneses’ testimony has been widely known for years after his collaboration with a journalist writing a book about the 12 Apostles.
However, the testimony of Eunisio Alfonso Pineda, has been lesser known in spite it being equally damning.
According to Pineda, he was forced to witness the murder of full-blown member of the death squad who had fallen out of grace with the group in order to intimidate the farmhand.
Pineda testified he fled Yarumal after he heard Uribe, Vasquez and “Rodrigo,” the group’s military chief, debating about whether they should kill the worker.
He ultimately fled to Spain and Meneses fled to Argentina in an attempt to evade the fate of the other witnesses.
The prosecution will also confront Uribe and the judge with the report of Yarumal’s then human rights coordinator, who in 1993 alerted prosecution authorities pf the murder of an alleged drug dealer on Uribe’s farm, “La Carolina.”
A fourth witness, who remained anonymous, claimed Uribe “was the chief because everybody called him ‘boss’ and it was he who was the coordinator when they went out for operations. He stayed with the radio and ‘Rodrigo’ informed him on the results of the operations.”
Additionally, the prosecution obtained testimonies from multiple former paramilitaries also confirming Uribe’s key role in the death squad.
The Uribe family has long been embroiled in scandals involving its members’ ties to paramilitary death squads. Cousin Mario Uribe was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for using paramilitary organization AUC to intimidate voters into electing him senator.
The former president is accused of promoting the formation of paramilitary groups when he was governor of Antioquia, complicity in a 1997 massacre and ordering a number of military operations that effectively were carried out in collusion with the AUC.