Ex-president Alvaro Uribe may be more deeply buried in Colombia’s parapolitics scandal than was once believed, as an archived confession by an ex-paramilitary indicates that he met with notorious paramilitary chief Carlos Castaño while president.
An article on Thursday by Colombian weekly Semana uncovers an until now barely examined testimony by an ex-paramilitary, who assures that while Alvaro Uribe was president, he met with Carlos Castaño – a man who was at the time the spokesman for the bloodiest paramilitary organization in the country, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).
The secret meeting allegedly took place in the early hours of the morning on a day in January 2003, five months after Uribe assumed the presidency and little more than a year before Castaño was to be assassinated.
The location was the home of a paramilitary referred to simply as “Movil 8,” in Amalfi, a small town of northeast Antioquia which is also the hometown of the Castaño brothers.
The man claims he saw Uribe shake hands and hug the men he was there to meet with from a distance: Carlos Castaño and Carlos Mauricio García Fernández, alias ‘Doblecero’, commander of the Metro Bloc of the Autodefensas Campesinas de Cordoba y Uraba (ACCU), a now-defunct paramilitary group of which Uribe has been alleged to help found.
According to the witness, there was a heavy military escort escorting the then-head of state.
This witness was an ex-member of the Metro Bloc named Nestor Abad Giraldo Arias, alias “El Indio.” His confession, which was recorded and can be seen at below, was given on December 9, 2011.
At that time, Uribe had already been in office for five months, and a bloody drug trade-fueled war was waging between the ACCU’s Metro Bloc and the Cacique Nutibara Bloc, headed by Diego Murillo Bejarano, alias “Don Berna,” in the area around Medellin.
In addition, the Colombian government and the AUC had at the time already entered an exploratory phase of an abandoning weapons and reinsertion process, one which would be agreed on months later, in July 2013.
The ex-paramilitary’s confession during an oral hearing in a transitional justice trial in Medellin.
The evidence would have been crucial in securing ” El Indio’s” reduced sentence of five to eight years for the various crimes he committed as a member of the Metro Bloc.
If his account proves to be fabricated, the witness faces trial in an ordinary court of justice, which may condemn him to much more severe punishment.
Carlos Castaño, along with his brothers Vicente and Fidel, founded the paramilitary organization ACCU in response to the assassination of their father by guerrillas belonging to the oldest rebel group in Colombia, the FARC.
By the time it later disassembled to become the now-defunct paramilitary organization AUC the group had degenerated into an organization heavily involved in drug trafficking.
Moreover, the AUC was central to the 2006 Colombian parapolitics scandal, referring to the proven ties between many state politicians and paramilitary groups, and in which Uribe’s name appeared various times but was never confirmed nor formally condemned.
FACT SHEET: Parapolitics
Carlos Castaño disappeared mysteriously in April, 2004. His death was a source of much speculation – with his own brother Vicente suspected of killing him — until, nearly two years later, his brother’s second lieutenant confessed to the murder and led authorities to a shallow grave in which Carlos Castaño’s body was found.
Uribe, currently aspiring to win a seat in Congress in Colombia’s march elections, is facing a number of criminal investigations for his alleged dealings with paramilitary groups. A number of his closest allies and family members have been sentenced to prison for using the death squads for electoral gain.