A senior judge in Colombia has ordered a congressional investigation into alleged ties between former President Alvaro Uribe and paramilitary groups, as the persistent allegations of collusion cast a shadow over Uribe’s plans to head a new political movement.
Judge Ruben Dario Pinilla called for the investigation following testimonies from seven former paramilitaries at the High Court of Medellin — the capital of Uribe’s home department Antioquia — as part of the country’s ongoing Justice and Peace process, which is aimed at reintegrating former members of armed groups into society.
According to the testimonies, Uribe collaborated with paramilitary groups during his 1995 to 1998 tenure as governor of Antioquia and was linked to massacres perpetrated by the groups in 1997, reported El Tiempo.
The call for an investigation comes a week after a former paramilitary leader declared Uribe was an “integral commander” of the paramilitaries in the region during his time as governor and continues to be involved in paramilitary activity.
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During Uribe’s stint as governor and much of his 2000 to 2008 presidency, Antioquia was one of many regions wracked with violence, as paramilitary “self-defense” organizations sprung up to confront left-wing guerrillas. These groups were often financed by wealthy businessmen, landowners, and drug traffickers and were responsible for a host of atrocities.
The political campaigns of many of Uribe’s associates and political allies were financed by the paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), and scores were later sent to prison for their paramilitary links in what became known as the “parapolitics” scandal, among them members of Uribe’s family.
Since then, the criminalized remnants of demobilized paramilitary organizations, known as the BACRIM (from the Spanish “Bandas Criminales”), have continued to infiltrate Colombian politics.
Uribe is currently gearing up to run for the Senate in next year’s elections after launching his own political party, but the parapolitics scandal continues to haunt his preparations. One of Uribe’s key allies and most prominent names on his party’s ticket, former Antioquia governor Luis Alfredo Ramos, was recently arrested amid an investigation into his alleged paramilitary ties.