During his time as president, Alvaro Uribe used his political influence to steer government funds to properties acquired illegally by his family, according to a vocal Uribe opponent in the Colombian congress.
Representative Ivan Cepeda took to the media Wednesday, accusing Uribe of directing a public irrigation initiative to a municipality in which his family’s landholdings company, Agropecuaria El Uberrimo S.A.S. had purchased territories designated for small-scale agricultural production.
Between 1993 and 2003, claims Cepeda, the Uribe-Moreno family purchased four government properties set aside for poor, landless farmers. According to Cepeda, the purchases not only violated the spirit of the statute — designed to open land access to historically excluded rural farmers — but also exceeded the maximum Family Agricultural Unit designated by the law.
Then in 2008, Uribe reportedly manipulated an initiative to improve irrigation systems in 11 rural “adaptation districts” to benefit his family’s holdings.
Cepeda claims that 40% of the funds — a reported $2.9 million — went to the Mocari District in the Cordoba department, where Uribe and his family reportedly own 3,640 acres of land, distributed among 59 properties, including the four allegedly illegal plots purchased from small-scale farmers.
“It’s evident that the particular interests of the ex-president factored into these decisions,” said Cepeda. “This is not the behavior a citizen expects from the chief executive of the country.”
Uribe did not delay in rejecting the accusations, which he called the “desperation of a reckless man”.
Via twitter, Uribe denied even owning lands in the Mocari District, saying that his family’s properties are in fact located in the Drenje District and that his company, which he claimed “serves a social function”, has been forced absorbed many repair costs due to government inadequacy.
Respuesta al desespero de un temerario: No tengo tierras en el Distrito de Riego de Mocarí. SI tengo en el (cont) http://t.co/k5uZ6TU9ZX
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) October 2, 2013
At this point, there is no indication that any sort of legal investigation is being made into the matter.
Land buying has become a controversial and ambiguous topic as of late, especially after a human rights report revealed that Cargill International, the world’s largest land trading firm, acquired 30 times the legal holdings limit, using the same land distribution program Uribe and his family allegedly took advantage of.
The most recent accusations come amid widespread calls for an investigation into Uribe’s alleged paramilitary ties. Uribe, who recently announced he will be running for a seat in the Colombian Senate in the 2014 national elections, is currently under congressional investigation for his role in an illegal wiretapping scandal involving several of his top security chiefs and cabinet advisors.