Colombian President Álvaro Uribe on May 23 named armed forces chief Gen. Freddy Padilla de Leon as his new defense minister. Padilla will retain his current post while taking over the defense portfolio from Juan Manuel Santos, who recently resigned to prepare a possible run for president in 2010. Santos was a mastermind of the current administration’s crackdown on FARC guerillas, who have seen their leadership decimated during Santos’ near three-year tenure. (AFP, May 23)
Padilla was named by human rights investigators as a likely overseer of army-paramilitary collaboration when he commanded the Magdalena Medio region seven years go. His tenure as armed forces chief was shadowed by the grisly “false positives” scandal, among others.
Santos is considering a presidential run, unless—as appears likely right now—President Uribe pushes through changes to Colombia’s constitution allowing him to run for a third term. Under Colombian law, cabinet ministers with presidential aspirations must leave office a year before the presidential election—a deadline which is imminent. (CIP Colombia Program, May 18)
See our last post on Colombia and the paramilitaries.