Colombian presidential candidate Luis Alfredo Ramos surrendered to authorities on Thursday, a day after the Supreme Court ordered his arrest. The politician close to former President Alvaro Uribe is charged with having ties to paramilitary death squads.
Following the order for his arrest, the primary candidate of Uribe’s Democratic Center party admitted on national radio to meeting with paramilitary leaders in 2005. According to Ramos, however, the meeting was not to seek paramilitary support, but to listen to the paramilitaries who were in the process of demobilizing after closing a deal with the Uribe administration.
The Supreme Court had already established this meeting took place during the sentencing of another Antioquia politician, former Senator Oscar Suarez.
Uribe published a statement early Thursday in which he insisted his political candidate was innocent, while emphasizing the timing of the arrest – less than a year before the elections and just weeks before his party plans to hold primary elections.
“Luis Alfredo Ramos is taken to jail just when he announces his desire to be President of the republic,” said Uribe.
A Luis Alfredo Ramos se le lleva a la cárcel justo cuando anuncia una aspiración a la Presidencia de la (cont) http://t.co/aP6375sKrk
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) August 29, 2013
The arrest of Ramos is a major blow to the controversial former president’s new political party, which is now down to four presidential primary candidates, two of whom have pending criminal investigations over their alleged use of death squads for political gain.
The two other candidates with alleged paramilitary links are Uribe’s former Vice-President and the cousin of current President Juan Manuel Santos, Francisco Santos, and Uribe’s former Finance Minister, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.
Uribe himself is currently under investigation by both the Inspector General’s Office and a Congressional committee.
In response to the arrest order, the Center Democratic party told press that Ramos is “temporarily abandoning his presidential campaign in order to dutifully attend the requirements of the authorities.”
The presidential hopeful’s arrest order comes at a time of great political tensions as President Santos, Uribe’s former Defense Minister, is currently in the process of negotiating peace with the FARC while facing strong criticism for his handling of rural unrest. He is expected to run for a re-election next summer.
The court order for Ramos comes after the sentencing of dozens of former congressmen and governors who were also convicted for possessing paramilitary ties.
FACT SHEET: Parapolitics
Uribe’s former intelligence chief and personal security chief have also been convicted for their ties to groups belonging to paramilitary umbrella organization AUC.
The former president’s then chief of staff and a second-intelligence chief have been charged with the illegal wiretapping of political opponents and the Supreme Court, while Uribe’s former agriculture minister is on trial for allegedly embezzling $25 million.