Colombia: Uribe’s spectacular criminal rule ends

On August 7, Alvaro Uribe will complete his reign as president of Colombia — eight years of spectacular government criminality and corruption, even by Colombian standards. A brief review of just his second term illustrates this.

The Washington Post reported on November 18, 2006 that the Uribe administration was in crisis. Investigations revealed that members of Congress collaborated with right-wing death squads to fix elections and assassinate opponents. That was the tip of the iceberg.

By April 9, 2008, Colombia Reports was saying that half of the Colombian Senate's members were suspected of being involved with paramilitary forces and almost one third of the lawmakers were in jail awaiting trial.

Perhaps the highlight was in September 2009 when Colombia Reports revealed that 40,000 government officials, including 800 mayors and 30 governors, were under investigation for corruption.

During the same period, the Colombian intelligence service, DAS, was implicated in helping paramilitary drug trafficking.

Former paramilitaries spilled their guts about their relationships to high ranking government officials, including Uribe's cousin Mario. Senator Alirio Villamizar, who had been under investigation for receiving bribes, was found with 1 billion pesos (about US$500,000) in his home.

In late 2009, a mass grave was discovered in the village of La Macarena containing about 2000 victims of the Colombian military, killed between 2005 and 2009. The army admitted having buried the bodies, claiming they were insurgents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

However, human rights activists have said they were what are termed in Colombia “false positives”: journalists, human rights workers, trade unionists and other civilian victims of extrajudicial executions reported as insurgents killed in combat.

One of the human rights activists making these claims, Jhonny Hurtado, who took a delegation of British MPs to the site in December, was himself assassinated on March 15.

The Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Colombia said on January 26 that the La Macarena site was one of thousands of mass graves in Colombia, where 25,000 people have officially disappeared.

The defence minister at the time, Juan Manuel Santos, was recently elected Uribe’s successor.

The International Trade Union Confederation reported on June 9 that in 2009, 48 trade unionists were killed in Colombia — the highest number in the world.

As the old saying goes “a fish rots from the head down”. This fish head has been rotten for a long time. In 1991, the US Defense Intelligence Agency listed then-Senator Alvaro Uribe as “dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels. Uribe was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the US [and] has worked for the Medellin cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar.”

This US intelligence assessment notwithstanding, in January 2009, then-US President George Bush, a week before he left the White House, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to his favourite fellow war-criminals. These were then-British PM Tony Blair, then-Australian PM John Howard and Uribe.