The government of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe continues to be plagued by the parapolítica (“parapolitics”) scandal, in which some 60 members of Congress have been linked to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary group that is now officially demobilized. The majority of these politicians are in Uribe’s governing coalition, and some are in the president’s extended family. On Aug. 12 a former paramilitary, Luis Adrian Palacio (“Diomedes”), gave testimony to the Attorney General’s Office linking Gen. Mario Montoya, the head of the military, to the AUC. Diomedes said that in April 2002 Montoya, who then commanded the Army’s Fourth Brigade, personally delivered a “present” of six AK-47 rifles and an M-16 rifle to the AUC’s Bloque Mineros. Montoya denies the charge.
Uribe’s popularity remains high; the latest polls gave him a 91% rating. He has been helped by a series of successes against the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Charges that leftist politicians are linked to the FARC—known as the farcpolítica (“FARC politics”) scandal—have helped relieve pressure from the paramilitary scandal. (La Jornada, Aug. 13 from AFP, DPA, Reuters)
An agreement between Uribe and the administration of US president George Bush has also helped diffuse the scandal. Some paramilitary leaders are now being extradited to the US to stand trial for drug trafficking, and many analysts think this will keep Colombian investigators from getting valuable information about paramilitary links to politicians. (The Nation, July 29)
Ever Veloza (“H.H.”), former leader of the Bloques Calima and Bananeros paramilitary units, has begun to talk about these ties, and Senator Gustavo Petro (himself threatened with investigation in the farcpolítica scandal) is urging Uribe to hold up Veloza’s extradition until he has told his story. The US-based Colombia Support Network (CSN) is asking for letters to US attorney general Michael Mukasey (AskDOJ@usdoj.gov) and Colombian attorney general Dr. Mario Hernan Iguaran Arana (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com) “urging them to place a hold on extradition until the human rights violation stories can be told.” (CSN alert, Aug. 5)
CSN is also urging activists to circulate a letter to Uribe in support of sociologist and journalist Alfredo Molano Bravo. The powerful Araujo family of Valledupar, capital of Cesar department, has brought criminal libel charges against Molano for a column the newspaper El Espectador published on Feb. 24, 2007, about various crimes committed by unidentified “notables” in Valledupar. On Aug. 12, Molano Bravo was ordered to appear at a preliminary hearing in the case. CSN is asking for people to sign on to a statement in solidarity with Molano. The group calls the criminal action against the journalist “part of a plan to muzzle the Colombian press at a time when investigations of ties of many Colombian politicians, including members of the Araujo family, with illegal paramilitaries are leading to convictions.” The letter is available from CSN at firstname.lastname@example.org. (CSN alert, Aug. 12)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 17