Uribe resigned from the Senate on Tuesday in an apparent panic reaction to an impending interrogation by the Supreme Court over the intimidation of witnesses who testified against the former head of state.
For years, Uribe has been accused of forming a death squad. Multiple witnesses who have testified against him were either murdered or survived assassination attempts.
The former president’s move leaves Duque — who is only 41 and has no relevant executive experience — without political mentor. The president’s party is left without leader just days after Congress was sworn in.
Duque has consistently ignored mounting evidence that Uribe — who has admitted to being a former Medellin Cartel associate — was intimidating witnesses to conceal his past as the alleged founder of a death squad.
In a first response, Duque remained loyal to the man who is now formally an alleged criminal, but whose popularity secured the president-elect’s victory in elections in June.
“We are witnesses of his honor, his correctness, his patriotism and his unquestionable service to the country and to the rule of law,” Duque told press.
The president-elect added that “we respect the constitution and its institutions,” in an attempt to unnerve widespread speculation Duque could try to derail the criminal investigations against his political patron.
Former President Uribe and all Colombians must have the guarantees to exercise their right to defense, enjoying the presumption of innocence in the framework of due process. We express our solidarity with former President Uribe and his family at this time and we are confident that his honor and innocence will prevail.
President-elect Ivan Duque
Duque was already having trouble keeping his congressional coalition in line after coalition partners Radical Change and the U Party merged to overtake Duque’s party is the largest coalition member in the Senate.
Duque’s Democratic Center party was founded almost entirely around Uribe and the protection of his controversial political legacy.
Furthermore, the criminal investigation into Uribe’s alleged witness tampering, ties to death squads and the killing of a human rights official, is likely to overshadow Duque’s administration for years.
Colombia’s left, that has been trying to get Uribe to court for decades, was having a field day; their expected opposition to Duque’s incoming government seems to have become a lot easier.