Colombia’s Uribe linked to 1984 assassination of justice minister

Rodrigo Lara Restrepo, chief of the Colombian presidency’s anti-corruption program, resigned Dec. 12—days after Miami’s El Nuevo Herald reported documents showing his father, Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, had warned before his 1984 assassination that relatives of current President Alvaro Uribe might try to kill him.

The story concerns a Hughes-500 helicopter captured in a 1984 raid on a cocaine-refining complex dubbed “Tranquilandia.” The aircraft was registered to a company partly owned by Alberto Uribe Sierra, the late father of the president. The Uribe family has denied any links to the helicopter’s narco work, saying the aircraft was sold two months before the raid to a man later identified as an aide to drug traffickers. The sale was not registered because the elder Uribe had died and his properties had gone into his estate.

El Nuevo reported that documents gathered during the investigation of the assassination revealed he had commented to his sister Cecilia and National Police Col. Jaime Ramírez Gómez that he feared he would be killed in retaliation for the raid. According to the sisters’ sworn deposition, the late Lara Bonilla said: “said that the Tranquilandia thing was very grave and that it involved very important people in the politics of the country, that the helicopter that was seized…was owned by the father of Alvaro Uribe.” Ramírez García testified the justice minister expressed the same concerns to him about the owners of the helicopter.

Lara said he was resigning for “personal and family” reasons and didn’t mention the newspaper’s Dec. 9 story. But the same day he resigned, the presidency made public a letter to El Nuevo Herald in which it described the report as the product of “individuals determined to discredit [Colombia] and besmirch its legitimate authorities.” It added: “President Alvaro Uribe has refuted this infamy tens of times.” (Nuevo Herald, Dec. 13)

The Nuevo Herald reporter who broke the story, Gonzalo Guillen, was recently forced to flee Colombia by death threats. Related items from FOR Colombia Program, December 2007:

Rodrigo Lara Bonilla unveiled Colombia’s first Parapolitica
Justice minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla was not just another minister. Friend and political associate of later assassinated presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, Lara Bonilla was a very courageous and principled man; he waged a crusade against the infiltration of drug money into politics by confronting drug lord Pablo Escobar, at the time a deputy member of the Colombian congress.

In April 1984, Lara Bonilla was shot to death by hit men hired by the Medellin Cartel. His death caused a big commotion and marked the start of a dark chapter of Colombian history in which the drug mafia used terror tactics, including widespread car bombings in Bogotá and Medellín to avoid Washington’s proposal to solve the drug problem: extradition to the United States.

Number of Congress Members Involved in Parapolitica scandal Grows
The number of former and current members of Congress investigated under the parapolitics scandal has surpassed 60. This month, two current members of Congress were put behind bars: the Senator, and former president of Congress, Luis Humber Gómez Gallo from Tolima and congressman Gonzalo García Angarita, also from Tolima. Both congressmen were captured in Bogotá on December 10th and sent to La Picota penitentiary.

See our last post on Colombia and the “parapolitica” scandal.