The younger brother of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe led a paramilitary death squad in the early 1990s, a former police major told U.S. newspaper the Washington Post.
According to former official Juan Carlos Meneses, Santiago Uribe led the local paramilitary group in Yarumal, where the Uribe family had a business. The group allegedly killed petty thieves, and suspected guerrillas and their sympathizers.
Meneses claims that the president’s brother was the main fundraiser and strategist behind the “12 Apostles,” a group of prominent citizens that led a number of hitmen. According to Meneses, he attended meetings with the group in which it was decided who was going to be killed. The former police commander’s role was to make sure no authorities would be present at the time of the murder.
“First, it was drug addicts and small-time criminals winding up dead. Then, there were more and more and more dead,” an anonymous former town official told the newspaper.
Meneses had earlier admitted to human rights organizations that he collaborated with the paramilitary group, and recently told Colombian judicial authorities that he is willing to collaborate in an investigation of the 12 Apostles. According to the former police commander, he was paid $2,000 a month for his services by Uribe personally.
The alleged paramilitary ties of the Uribe family were investigated by Colombian prosecutors in the 1990s, but none of the suspects were convicted.
An anonymous judicial official told the Washington Post that the case against the Uribes “can be revived” if prosecutors consider Meneses’ testimony credible.
Santiago Uribe denies he or his brother were involved in any crimes and claims the allegations are part of a carefully orchestrated campaign to hurt the president. “The enemies of the president will not rest, and he knows it very well,” Uribe told the newspaper.
According to the Washington Post, the president’s spokesman did not respond to phone calls seeking an official response from the presidency.