“The government is giving lower numbers in terms of security, but the truth is that these are distorted,” said Senator Juan Carlos Velez at a press conference held together with other primary candidates for Uribe’s Democratic Center Party.
The criticism is ironic as Uribe’s past administrations — in which Santos was defense minister — have fallen from grace after ongoing revelations they had been cooking the books on security advances in a deadly manner; to increase the apparent effectiveness of the security forces, the government used combat kills figures that had largely been inflated by killing civilians to report them as combat kills.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, almost 4,000 Colombians were executed in order to inflate the armed forces’ apparent effectiveness.
Additionally, Uribe’s former peace commissioner fled the country ahead of a criminal investigation into the fraudulent demobilization of a non-existent front of rebel group FARC.
Santos over the weekend invited opposing political forces to organize a debate on public security and compare his own advances in the fight against crime and illegal armed groups with those of previous administrations.
“Tell us in which public space you would like to do the debate,” Carlos Holmes Trujillo, one of the least known primary candidates challenged the president.
The Democratic Center has selected five candidates to take part in the primaries for which a date has not been set, three of which are under criminal investigation. The candidates have held one joint press conference before in which they also criticized Santos’ security approach and ongoing peace talks with the FARC.
While Uribe was in office, he and Santos were considered close allies. After Santos took office in August 2010 however, relations worsened as Santos appointed a number of Uribe’s political enemies in his coalition cabinet while judicial authorities accelerated criminal investigations against Uribe aides suspected of embezzlement, the illegal wiretapping of political opponents, the bribing of congressman and an alleged conspiracy to discredit the country’s Supreme Court.