Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is facing renewed investigations into his alleged criminal ties following fresh accusations over his involvement with paramilitary groups during his time as governor of Antioquia.
The decision to reopen the preliminary investigation into Uribe came after new testimonies from former paramilitaries were submitted to prosecutors by Congressman Ivan Cepeda.
The testimonies come from two former members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the umbrella organization of the illegal right-wing paramilitaries that demobilized during Uribe's presidency: Pablo Hernan Sierra, alias "Alberto Guerrero," and Juan Guillermo Monsalve.
Sierra accused Uribe and his brother Santiago of playing a key role in establishing the AUC’s Bloque Metro, which went on to terrorize the city of Medellin and parts of the Antioquia province, reported El Colombiano.
In the second testimony, Monsalve, who claimed to have worked on one of Uribe's properties, alleged that Uribe supported the AUC, and also ordered a massacre in the municipality of San Roque, according to Cepeda.
Uribe’s lawyer, Jaime Granados, was quick to denounce the decision to reopen the investigations, issuing a press release in which he dismissed the testimonies as “stories full of assumptions, inaccuracies and lies.”
Speaking to Bloomberg, Granados said the testimonies were not credible since they came from imprisoned former paramilitaries looking for reductions in their sentences who had been manipulated by Cepeda – a long time antagonist of Uribe whose father was assassinated in 1994, with the help of the AUC.
The accusations will now be assessed by prosecutors, who will forward the testimonies to a Congressional committee if they consider them viable.
InSight Crime Analysis
Since leaving the presidency, Uribe has beaten back numerous attempts to link him to paramilitary groups, even as some of his closest allies have been convicted of collusion with paramilitary and criminal organizations, and abuses of power.
Uribe has consistently maintained that the accusations, which come principally from former paramilitaries, are motivated by a political agenda and a desire for vengeance by former AUC commanders who believe Uribe reneged on a promise not to extradite them to the US if they demobilized.
However, his ability to avoid prosecution has also undoubtedly been aided by his continued political influence and popularity, something which he may no longer be able to count on.
Over the last two years, Uribe has emerged as the de facto leader of the main political opposition to his former ally, current President Juan Manuel Santos, who he accuses of abandoning his hard line security policies. With the next presidential elections now just over a year away, Santos, who will go for a second term, would benefit greatly if one of his fiercest and most prominent critics were to be discredited, perhaps leaving Uribe more vulnerable than in the past.