A jailed former Congressman has said Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe knew he was receiving support from paramilitary groups during his 2002 election campaign, local media reported Tuesday.
Miguel Alfonso de la Espriella, who was part of the coalition government led by Uribe and later sentenced for having ties to the paramilitary AUC, revealed before prosecutors that Uribe knew he was receiving votes and funds from the AUC during his presidential campaign.
According to De la Espriella, he and another now-jailed lawmaker told Uribe about the paramilitaries’ support for his campaign in the northern Cordoba department. According to the disgraced politician, Uribe never objected to meeting with the AUC-backed politicians, but “simply maintained a prudent silence.”
The then-candidate did refuse to meet directly with the AUC’s then-second in command Salvatore Mancuso at a rally organized by the AUC, the former congressman said.
“He said that if he met with Mancuso at that moment he wouldn’t be president later, that we should leave the meeting for later,” De la Espriella testified.
Uribe’s lawyer, Jaime Granados, denied De la Espriella’s assertions. According to newspaper El Tiempo, the defense attorney said that “the country knows about the positions of former President Alvaro Uribe and the lies of Mancuso,” adding that De la Espriella “is blackmailing political personalities from the [Caribbean] coast to seek profit.”
Mancuso, who became the supreme leader of the AUC after the murder of founder Carlos Castaño in 2004, and other paramilitary commanders have repeatedly accused the Uribe campaign of having received support during the former president’s first campaign.
De la Espriella in 2006 became one of the first Colombian politicians to be sentenced to prison for “parapolitics,” or the using paramilitary support to get elected into Congress.