Uribe denied accusations that he helped found paramilitary groups during his 1995-1997 tenure as the governor of Antioquia, despite having openly acknowledged in the past that he supported CONVIVIR, a network of anti-guerrilla neighborhood watch groups formed in the 1990s.
The CONVIVIR, whose creation was promoted by Uribe, were legalized by the Colombian government in 1994 in response to increased violence from guerrilla groups like the FARC and ELN. Because of their links to the illegal AUC and its atrocities, the Constitutional Court banned the self-defense groups in 1997.
“I didn’t create the CONVIVIR, they were created by the law of the Republic,” he said, in spite of the department of Antioquia “being rife with guerrilla and paramilitary groups” when he assumed the governorship.
While the groups reportedly achieved success in providing security, they were accused of numerous human rights abuses.
“We have received credible information that indicated that the CONVIVIR (…) were directed by known paramilitaries and had threatened to assassinate Colombians that were considered guerrilla sympathizers,” according to a 1998 report by international NGO Human Rights Watch.
A Colombian congressman formally accused the ex-leader of helping to found the Metro Bloc of Colombia’s main paramilitary organization, the AUC, and using it to carry out political and civilian assassinations during his 2002 -2010 presidency. The charges filed were based on the testimony of two former paramilitary members.
The infiltration of the now-defunct AUC into Colombian political life has seen dozens of congressmen — mostly Uribe allies — convicted for paramilitary ties, in a scandal popularly known as “parapolitics.”