During testimony for Colombia’s Justice and Peace process, AUC leader Salvatore Mancuso said that he met personally with Uribe when Uribe was governor of Antioquia, but that he never met with Uribe during any political campaign. The AUC sent two politicians to speak with Uribe and serve as their intermediaries during the 2002 election season, Mancuso said. At the time, Uribe was aware that the AUC was supporting his campaign for president, Mancuso added.
Mancuso’s accusations were echoed in court testimony by one of the politicians who once served as the AUC’s emissary. Former Senator Miguel Alfonso de la Espriella said that he’d told Uribe in 2002 that the AUC were helping to financially support the presidential campaign. Uribe knew that he was meeting with Espriella as an emissary of the AUC but “always kept a prudent silence,” Espriella said. He also said that Uribe rejected meeting with Mancuso, as El Tiempo reports: “He said that if he met with Mancuso now, he wouldn’t become president later.”
Espriella was one of the first Colombian members of Congress to be sentenced for ties to the AUC in 2008.
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These are some of the most direct allegations yet that Uribe was aware that the AUC backed his campaign for presidency. Many of Uribe’s closest political allies -- including his cousin Mario -- have stood trial and been imprisoned for their ties to paramilitary groups. Mancuso has previously said in a radio interview that he met personally with Uribe, but refused to give any more details about it.
Uribe has said that he will sue Espriella in court for the allegations. But along with the indictment of his former chief of security, who pleaded guilty in a US court in August for collaborating with the AUC, the statements by Espriella and Mancuso will cast a shadow on the ex-president’s record, and will likely raise further questions about whether Uribe could some day face a criminal investigation himself.