Colombia: Incoming president faces crisis as Uribe to stand trial

July 27, 2018

Ivan Duque has not even taken office and his government is already in crisis after the president-elect’s political patron, former president Alvaro Uribe, resigned from Congress.

Uribe resigned from the Senate on July 24 in an apparent panic reaction to an impending interrogation by the Supreme Court over the intimidation of witnesses who testified against the former head of state.

For years, Uribe has been accused of forming a death squad. Multiple witnesses who have testified against him were either murdered or survived assassination attempts.

The former president’s move leaves Duque — who is only 41 and has no relevant executive experience — without a political mentor. The president’s party has also been left without a leader just days after Congress was sworn in.

Duque has consistently ignored mounting evidence that Uribe — who has admitted to being a former Medellin Cartel associate — was intimidating witnesses to conceal his past as the alleged founder of a death squad.

In a first response, Duque remained loyal to the now formally alleged criminal, but whose popularity secured the president-elect’s victory in elections in June.

“We are witnesses of his honour, his correctness, his patriotism and his unquestionable service to the country and to the rule of law,” Duque told the media.

The president-elect added that “we respect the constitution and its institutions,” in an attempt to unnerve widespread speculation Duque could try to derail the criminal investigations against his political patron.

Duque was already having trouble keeping his congressional coalition in line after coalition partners Radical Change and the U Party merged to overtake Duque’s party as the largest coalition member in the Senate.

Duque’s Democratic Centre party was founded almost entirely around Uribe and the protection of his controversial political legacy.

Furthermore, the criminal investigation into Uribe’s alleged witness tampering, ties to death squads and the killing of a human rights official, is likely to overshadow Duque’s administration for years.

[Abridged from Colombia Reports.]

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