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October 5, 2007
Uribe Cousin Quits Senate in Context of Paramilitary Investigation
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Uribe ally quits Colombia Senate

A cousin of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has resigned from the Senate to avoid a Supreme Court inquiry into whether he had ties to paramilitaries.

Mario Uribe’s resignation comes amid a scandal that has seen dozens of politicians accused of paramilitary links and 14 jailed awaiting trial.

His case now goes from the Supreme Court, which investigates lawmakers, to the regular court system.

Mr Uribe’s lawyer said this would give his client more opportunity to appeal.

This is a legal maneuver to drag out the investigation, as his status as a normal citizen, rather than a Senator, changes the nature of the investigation.

The context:

To date, inquiries have been opened into dozens of lawmakers over their alleged ties to the United Self-defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries in what has been dubbed the “parapolitics” scandal.

The paramilitaries were created by landowners and drug-traffickers to combat left-wing rebels and anyone suspected of being a sympathiser.

May 25, 2007
Dealing with the Parapoliticians
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Adam Isacson at CIP’s Plan Colombia and Beyond blog has an interesting proposal for dealing with the parapoliticians: Para-politicians out of jail? Perhaps, but not yet .

Upon a first reading I say that I think he makes a number of very valid points. Of the most salient is the notion that how this situation is handled will have implications for any future negotiations with the FARC and ELN mean that the government needs to carefully consider how to proceed.

May 24, 2007
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

The New Market Machines notes the following story: Colombia: Narcopolitician Promises FARCopolitics Scandal

Jorge Noguera, the former national intelligence chief, under investigation for parapolitical and narcopolitical dealings himself, charges that the Colombian DAS has a “book” on politicians with ties to the FARC

We shall see. Certainly if this is true, it will escalate an already major scandal (the linkage of a number of current and former Colombian politicians to paramilitary groups).

However, I must admit I am a tad skeptical.

First off, it has a retaliatory element to it (not to mention me-tooism): arrest me for para ties, will you! Well look: I have a book, too! Nyah!

Plus, why say you have a list, and then not reveal it? That sort of manuever always seems a bit odd.

Second, and more analytically, it makes less sense for Colombian politicians to have guerrilla ties than it does for them to have paramilitary ties. Paramilitary groups could be used, by persons already in power in specific regions to remain in power. The FARC’s goals are to remove those currently in power and to replace them. As such, it is unclear why members of the FARC would help maintain the status quo. Additionally, FARC ties on the part of politicians have been known to be a good way to get oneself killed (see: the Patriot Union).

I am not saying it is impossible, but I am saying it doesn’t ring true–while the connections to paramilitaries made a great deal of sense.

May 18, 2007
This Week in Colombia
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Plan Colombia and Beyond has a good link/news roundup for those interested in the dramatic week that has been taking place in Colombia.

May 15, 2007
More Parapolítica Arrests in Colombia
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT: Colombia orders the arrest of 19 politicians

The Colombian government ordered the arrest of 19 current and former officials Monday who are accused of signing a 2001 “devil’s pact” with outlawed paramilitary groups in which they promised to work together to “re-found Colombia.”

The orders represent the government’s biggest move yet to bring to justice politicians it alleges were complicit with the right-wing militias in Colombia’s decades-long civil war. Farmers and businessmen formed the militias for self-defense against leftist guerrillas in the 1980s, but many of the groups evolved into mafias engaged in killings, drug trafficking, extortion, land grabs and election fraud.

The document, known as the Treaty of Ralito, came to light this year. Prosecutors here have described it as a “devil’s pact” that candidates signed to obtain political and financial advantage from association with the paramilitaries.

Paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso presented a copy of the document during court testimony he gave earlier this year.

This is one of those situation where on the one hand it is a positive that the justice system appears to be working, but also a radical negative that a substantial number of elected officials have been in secret alliance with paramilitary groups.

The arrested:

Warrants for the arrests of five sitting congressmen were issued by the Supreme Court because only the highest court has the power to file charges against national legislators. Four of the five are in custody, including Sen. Miguel de la Espriella, who first disclosed the existence of the document in January.

The others in custody are Sen. Reginaldo Montes, Congressman Jose de los Santos Negrete and Sen. Juan Manuel Lopez. Still at large is Sen. William Montes. All except Lopez are Uribe supporters.

The other 14 politicians are ex-officeholders who were indicted by Colombia’s attorney general Monday because they have lost their immunity. They include former senators, congressmen, governors and mayors. Eleven were in custody as of Monday evening, including Eleonora Pineda, who frequently defended paramilitaries as a congresswoman.

Among the paramilitary leaders who signed the 2001 pact were Mancuso; Rodrigo Tovar, alias Jorge 40; and Diego Fernando Murillo, known as Don Berna. Mancuso and Murillo are wanted on drug-trafficking charges in the United States.

This is not the first set of arrests of sitting congressmen in the current scandal:

Eight sitting members of congress, all Uribe supporters, were arrested in November and February on charges of consorting with paramilitaries to commit crimes that ranged from electoral fraud to mass murder. Among them were the brother and cousin of former Foreign Minister Maria Consuelo Araujo.

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