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Uribe’s ties to Colombia death squads exposed

Published Mar 4, 2007 10:04 PM

News from Colombia exposing President Álvaro Uribe’s ties to the terrorist, cocaine trading paramilitaries, or death squads, have not, as usual, received adequate attention in the U.S. corporate media. Were they truly concerned about narcotics traffic, this news would be on the front pages of every major newspaper. Instead, it is covered in articles buried in the back pages if not completely ignored.

Uribe has been tied to the right-wing
paramilitary death squads in Colombia
like those shown here.
Photo: Garry M. Leech

One wonders who makes the decision to suppress these potential newspaper-selling headline stories. Can it come directly from the White House? After all, in an attempt to stand by his most loyal ally at a time of great “need,” President George W. Bush has scheduled a visit to Bogotá, Colombia, during his tour through Latin America March 8 to 14. This is the first time a U.S. president will visit Bogotá since John F. Kennedy went. Bush will also visit Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico and Uruguay.

What are Uribe’s ties, now being exposed?

Since the discovery last year of the seized computer of paramilitary leader Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, alias “Jorge 40,” a string of exposures, like a domino effect, have been occurring almost daily in that nation. Apparently a large number of government officials have worked in partnership with paramilitaries carrying out voter fraud, intimidating voters, grabbing land, and committing violence targeting political opponents, social activists and union leaders. The violence includes kidnapping and assassinations,

Eight congressmen have been arrested and are now in jail because of their collaboration with paramilitaries. All are from pro-Uribe political parties and organizations. According to a statement of the opposition party, Alternative Democratic Pole ( PDA), sent by e-mail on Feb. 23, “There are close to 100 pro-Uribe political leaders either in jail, fugitive or mentioned because of their ties to powerful illegal armed organizations.”

On Feb.19, María Consuelo Araujo, the young foreign minister whom Uribe had fervently defended from opposition criticism, was forced to resign. This followed the arrest of her brother, Álvaro Araujo, a former governor and a pro-Uribe senator, along with four others. The Supreme Court ordered the arrest on the basis of Álvaro Araujo’s ties to Jorge 40 and his role in the kidnapping of a politician who interfered with Araujo’s election. The foreign minister’s father, Álvaro Araujo Noguera, is also under investigation for similar charges.

Three days later, on Feb. 22, Jorge Noguera, a close ally of and 2002 electoral campaign manager for Uribe, who was also director of the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), or secret police, was arrested. Noguera was charged with having given a “hit list” of trade unionists, human rights advocates and other social activists to the paramilitaries. Several people named in the list were eventually killed.

Noguera’s arrest has been the single worst nightmare for Uribe. According to an investigation by the prosecution’s office, Noguera had met at least nine times with Álvaro Pupo Castro, spokesperson for the paramilitary chiefs and cousin of Jorge 40, in his office at the DAS.

According to Rafael García, former head of data processing for the DAS, Pupo Castro took the secret DAS information to Jorge 40 and the list of 15 trade union leaders who were then killed in Barranquilla (El Tiempo, Feb 22, 2007). García himself was detained in 2005 and charged with erasing the files of drug traffickers and paramilitaries from the DAS database.

Since then, he has collaborated with the prosecution as a key witness against Noguera. As a result of García’s detention, Noguera resigned from his DAS post. Uribe named him to the consulate in Milan, Italy, from which he resigned last year surrounded by scandal.

Uribe’s response

Uribe has given no convincing explanation. Instead, following Bush’s dictum of “if you are not with me, you are against me” and the old saying of “a good offense is the best defense,” Uribe has embarked on a vicious and deadly campaign of accusations against the opposition. Even before the current exposés, there was ample proof that the paramilitaries in Colombia are loyal followers of Uribe and his word is their supreme command.

Several leaders of the PDA, among them Sen. Gustavo Petro, have exposed pro-Uribe elements. Petro has asked for a congressional debate to inquire about the ties of politicians, businessmen and other sectors with paramilitarism in Antioquia. A former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement, Petro has consistently accused Uribe of allowing paramilitary ties with the politicians to end in the terrible violence disrupting the country with massacres, selective assassinations, kidnappings, etc. Uribe, in turn, has accused Petro and others of being “terrorists dressed in business suits.”

Two days after Uribe’s statement, a new paramilitary grouping, the Black Eagles, sent a death threat to dozens of social, labor, student and alternative media organizations. Petro’s brother was also threatened. Two members of the PDA were killed under suspicious circumstances.

Uribe has also lashed out against other opposition figures. He has called the director of the weekly magazine VOZ of the Colombian Communist Party (CCP), Carlos Lozano, a “FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] accomplice”. This has the same effect as writing Lozano’s name on the hit list of the death squads.

A CCP statement says, “The irresponsible declarations of Alvaro Uribe .... are a conscious provocation by the chief of state meant to continue the witch-hunt with which he attempts to defend himself from the charges that the prosecution and the Supreme Court have brought against his spokespeople in the parliament.”

Paramilitaries demobilize?

A great deal of publicity has been given to the supposed demobilization of the Colombian Self Defense Units (AUC) or paramilitaries. Salvatore Mancuso, a well-known head of the Catatumbo Bloc of the AUC and responsible for the deaths of at least 5,200 people, is currently in jail. He took advantage of Uribe’s “Justice and Peace” law, which allows paramilitaries to confess their crimes in exchange for a lighter sentence, and has said that “the rearmament of the self-defense forces is a crude reality that we cannot avoid or minimize...” (taken from a statement from FENSUAGRO, the national campesino union).

Next: More violence against Colombian organizations: Who are the Black Eagles? What is the U.S. role? And the visit of Gustavo Petro to Washington.