The administration of former President Alvaro Uribe feared that the revelation of ties between politicians and demobilized paramilitary organization AUC would damage the country’s institutions and politics, former President Alvaro Uribe and his Peace Commissioner Carlos Restrepo told the U.S. embassy in 2006.
According to a WikiLeaks cable released Sunday, Restrepo told then-U.S. ambassador William Wood in November 2006 that even though the Colombian government supported the investigations, the Uribe adminstration “is paying a high political cost, since many of the congressmen involved are members of President Uribe’s coalition,” the cable said.
“The GOC’s failure to capture paramilitary leader Vicente Castano and other paramilitary fugitives, its inability to prevent the emergence of new criminal groups, and the Fiscalia’s slow implementation of the Justice and Peace Law are exacerbating this problem,” the ambassador wrote.
Restrepo said the danger is that opposition political parties will continue
to exploit the exposure of paramilitary-political class links for purely
partisan advantage. This will not only damage President Uribe and his
government, but will also severely undermine the credibility and
effectiveness of Colombia's public institutions.
Restrepo said he is urging President Uribe to try to agree with the
opposition Liberal and Polo Democratico parties on a unified approach to
manage the institutional damage resulting from the investigations.
He recognized that such a deal would require the GOC to offer the
opposition concrete advantages, including government positions and a
commitment to pursue the investigations wherever they might lead.
Restrepo said such an agreement would be difficult to achieve, especially
given the personal bitterness between many political leaders, but said it
would be worth it to structure the public political debate.
In a conversation between Wood and Uribe, the former Colombian president said “the current paramilitary-political scandal was the result of his democratic security policy and the paramilitary peace process” and that he fully supported the investigations carried out by the Supreme Court.
Uribe contrasted his record in prosecuting the paramilitaries with that
of his predecessors. He said previous Colombian governments had been
"too indulgent" with terrorist groups, and noted that former President
Cesar Gaviria and former Defense Minister Rafael Pardo -- both of whom
have sharply criticized Uribe,s handling of the paramilitary process --
did little to halt the growth of these groups while in office. Uribe
added that many current legislators had never revealed their roles in
crimes committed by the leftwing terrorist group M-19 and other
Political leaders were so concerned about rumors about a possible revocation of their U.S. visas they requested meetings with the U.S. ambassador a month before the 2006 congressional elections.
Colombia Democratica leader Mario Uribe, currently in jail awaiting trial for his alleged paramilitary ties, asked the ambassador in early 2006 to tell him which suspicious candidates for the congressional elections to remove. “(Uribe earlier told D/Polcouns that he could not afford to lose his U.S. visa because he had three children in the U.S., two studying and one working; he anticipated spending ‘more and more’ time in the U.S. in coming years. He added he would give up his Senate seat and political career if that was the only way to keep his visa.”
Current Antioquia governor, former leader of the now-defunct Alas-Equipo Colombia party and currently investigated for paramilitary ties, “stressed his party was pro-U.S., closely allied with prominent Colombian industrialists, and totally free from AUC influence. Ramos noted that A-EC only accepted donations from leading business members, and that he had personally taken out a large private loan from a major bank to help finance the party’s Congressional candidates.”
Per guidance from the Department, the Ambassador told Uribe, Holguin,
and Ramos that the U.S. was concerned about the possibility of illicit
paramilitary involvement in electoral campaigns through intimidation,
corruption, and violence. However, the U.S. was not involved in
reviewing party lists (and had declined suggestions from some party
leaders that it do so).
The parapolitics scandal severely damaged the Uribe administration. Dozens of congressmen, mayors and governors — the vast majority belonging to Uribe’s political coalition parties — have been convicted of ties to the AUC. As the scandal grew and the court opened investigations against family members of Uribe, relations between the country’s judicial branch and the presidency worsened and Uribe accused the court itself of being infiltrated by criminals and the country’s intelligence service DAS began illegal wiretapping of Supreme Court magistrates involved in the investigations.