“redlogarythm” for Borderland Beat; Reuters
|Álvaro Uribe Vélez in 2020|
Former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez said on Tuesday the Supreme Court had ordered his detention amid an investigation into alleged witness tampering and fraud. Uribe, a mentor of President Ivan Duque who now serves as a senator, has repeatedly declared his innocence and questioned the court’s independence.
The court has not yet released its ruling and it was unclear whether Uribe, a divisive political figure, would be held under house arrest or possibly behind bars. “The privation of my liberty causes me profound sadness for my wife, for my family, and for Colombians who still believe that I have done something good for the country,” Uribe wrote on Twitter.
The Supreme Court ruling would mark the first ever in Colombia ordering the detention of a former president. Duque has repeatedly backed Uribe and said he should be allowed to defend himself while free. The case stems from a long-running feud between the right-wing Uribe and leftist Senator Ivan Cepeda.
In 2012, Uribe accused Cepeda of orchestrating a plot to tie him to right-wing paramilitary groups. But in 2018 the court said Cepeda had collected information from former fighters as part of his work and had not paid or pressured former paramilitaries. Instead it was Uribe who was at fault, the court said, adding that his allies had undertaken new witness tampering efforts even after its original ruling.
Uribe and lawmaker Alvaro Hernan Prada face prison terms of up to 12 years. That would put Uribe in the ranks of other former Latin American presidents, including Brazil’s Lula da Silva and Peru’s Alberto Fujimori, who have served time in confinement.
Uribe is best known for mounting an aggressive offensive against Marxist guerrillas during his 2002 to 2010 tenure. He and his family have long been accused of paramilitary links. His brother Santiago is currently facing a murder charge.
It is important to remember that Uribe Vélez was once listed as an associate of the Medellin Cartel in a list released by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 1991. His brother Santiago was arrested in 2016 and is on trial for being the leader of the Doce Apostoles paramilitary group, which killed dozens of people in Antioquia during the 1990s.
Uribe Vélez introduced the Democratic Security (Seguridad Democrática) strategy to tackle the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) and the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional, ELN) during the early 2000s. This strategy was divisive since it led to the defeat of the urban structures of these criminal groups but also cost the lives of thousands of civilians.