The former Prosecutor General Luis Camilo Osorio clashed with the U.S. embassy in Bogota over U.S. allegations against members of his office and Osorio’s subsequent refusal to set-up an anti-corruption unit, a WikiLeaks cable has shown.
In March 2004, the U.S. was becoming increasingly concerned that paramilitaries had infiltrated Colombia’s lead prosecution entity and could thus damage its reputation among both the Colombian people and the U.S. government.
Osorio agreed with a U.S. demand to polygraph officials from his unit but refused to create an anti-corruption unit on the grounds that he could not assign this important jurisdiction to an entirely new unit. The role therefore, he suggested, would have to come from an ad-hoc unit.
Osorio also adamantly denied having any personal contact with illegal groups though the then-U.S. Ambassador William B. Wood expressed his reservation over the handling of some cases, with those who zealously pursued the conviction of drug traffickers or former paramilitary soldiers ultimately being dismissed before the investigation produced results.
The former prosecutor also openly questioned the validity of U.S. claims against three or four members of his unit, stating that the U.S. must hand over its evidence for the prosecutor to conduct his own investigation.
Wood refused however, responding that it was not the role of the Embassy to collaborate with the prosecutor general and that the information he wished to obtain was there to investigate should the impetus exist.
Wood ended the cable by reiterating his concern over Osorio’s stance, believing that corruption could be fought off successfully if an effective unit were created.
In two further cables from March to April 2004, it was relayed how 125 officials were subjected to polygraph testing with 21% failing, the Colombian magazine Semana reported.
In light of the test results, Osorio became more receptive to the idea of removing officials though still resisted with some, stating that the polygraph did not provide enough evidence.
Upon being threatened with the removal of U.S economic aid to his office however, Osorio relented, removing all officials either from office or from “sensitive positions” and agreed to the creation of an anti-corruption unit.
Osorio, who held office from 2001-2005, has frequently been accused for his reluctance to defend human rights while in office and for dropping cases against high-profile officials.
One of the most notable cases was when he first entered office and dropped all proceedings against the former head of Colombia’s armed forces, General Rito Alejo del Rio, for his alleged ties to paramilitaries.
The case was eventually re-opened in 2009 though it remains ongoing.
Osorio most recently served as the Colombian ambassador to Mexico until November 2010.