Pressure on former President Alvaro Uribe increased to unprecedented levels after the prosecution asked the Supreme Court to open a criminal investigation into the former head of state’s alleged complicity in a 1997 paramilitary massacre.
Statements from one of Colombia’s most infamous drug traffickers, former paramilitary commander “Don Berna” given in front of a committee of the prosecution alleged that the current senator had direct knowledge of the slaughter in the township of El Aro, Antioquia that took place in 1997.
Berna’s testimony and those of others indicating the complicity of Uribe in the killing of 14 were merit enough for Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre to ask the Supreme Court to take up the investigation less than a month ahead of elections in which Uribe’s party, the conservative Democratic Center, takes up a liberal-leaning coalition of parties loyal to President Juan Manuel Santos.
In February of this year a Medellin court already ordered the investigation of Uribe for his alleged involvement in the massacre that has haunted the former head of state for decades, in spite of a diminishing number of key witnesses, lost through extraditions and assassinations.
The then governor of Antioquia Uribe allegedly had knowledge of the slaughter, almost two decades ago, when members of paramilitary group AUC murdered 14 in El Aro, a village in the northwestern department, that was burnt to the ground.
“Don Berna” specifically referred to conversations with former AUC member Francisco Villalba who incriminated Uribe with several statements made in 1998 and 2008, before his assassination in 2009.
“I met Villalba and I asked him if there was any way to stop these statements against the government in regard to what happened in El Aro. Specifically, the accusations against President Alvaro Uribe. He answered no, that he will continue because it is a way of catharsis, to vent what happened. I offered money and improved conditions, but under no circumstances will he cease complaints, ” said Berna, who was extradited by Uribe to the United States in 2008.
The former paramilitary commander is currently serving a 31-year in a US prison, but remains under investigation for numerous disappearances and murders that took place in Colombia.
Uribe’s lawyer, Jaime Granados, responded with accusations that the Prosecutor General has advanced an “onslaught” against the Uribe family, at a time of political fragility amid developing peace negotiations and just weeks before regional elections.
This “unprecedented persecution” against the family, as described by Granados extends to the proceedings currently under way against Alvaro’s brother Santiago Uribe.
The brother of the former president is also currently on trial for founding his own paramilitary group, “the 12 Apostles” that sought to violently remove leftist elements from Antioquia politics in the 1980s.
Granados has criticized that prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre is guilty of the creation of “media rumors” and violations of discretion, indicating an imminent capture of Santiago Uribe. As such Santiago “feared ending up in prison” and Granados announced to the prosecution and the public that “in the coming days he will attend various international human rights defense agencies to denounce these facts.”