Colombia: President Uribe's brother said to have led death squad

A former Colombian police major, Juan Carlos Meneses, has come forward to allege that Santiago Uribe, younger brother of President Alvaro Uribe, led a paramilitary group in the 1990s in the northern town of Yarumal, Antioquia department, that killed petty thieves, guerrilla sympathizers and suspected "subversives." In an interview with the Washington Post, Meneses said the group's hit men trained at La Carolina, a ranch owned by the Uribe family, in the early 1990s. "This is what we have been hoping for—that something like this could come out, and we could show what these paramilitary groups were," said María Eugenia López. She said five of her relatives were killed by paramilitaries in Yarumal in 1990.

Meneses claimed Santiago Uribe was the main fundraiser and strategist behind the "12 Apostles," a group of local noteworthies that led a team of hitmen. According to Meneses, he attended meetings with the group where hit lists were drawn up. Meneses said his own role was to make sure no authorities would be present at the murder scenes.

The Uribe family was investigated for alleged paramilitary ties by Colombian prosecutors in the 1990s, and secret witnesses who participated in crimes gave depositions detailing Santiago Uribe's role. The younger Uribe was briefly jailed, as were Meneses and another police commander—known as "Captain Dam" because he was accused of throwing victims' bodies into the local dam. But no convictions were secured.

Santiago Uribe denies that he or his brother were involved in any crimes, and claims the allegations are part of a political campaign. "The enemies of the president will not rest, and he knows it very well," the younger Uribe told the Post.

This claim was echoed by Vice President Francisco Santos, who said: "There is something very strange here, too many coincidences with what is going on, in order to influence the electoral process. I do not have the slightest doubt that everything that is happening has a political intent."

But Nobel prize-winning Argentine human rights activist Adolfo Perez Esquivel said that Colombia must investigate the allegations. He added to Bogotá's W Radio that if Colombia does not open an investigation, "it would be right to bring it [the case] to international justice." (Washington Post, Colombia Reports, May 24)

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