Monday, May 24, 2010

Uribe, Paramilitaries and the Colombian Election

Colombians go to the polls this Sunday, and the likely result will be see former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and former Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus headed to a runoff election in June.

Today a new story came to light that promises to play a big part in Colombia's ongoing debate (and main election narrative) about how well the Uribe administration (with Santos as Defense Minister) has enforced rule of law and human rights protections in its agressive campaign against guerrillas and drug traffickers.

From today's Washington Post:
Juan Carlos Meneses, 42, a retired major in Colombia's National Police, has decided to speak out about how he collaborated with a paramilitary group in the small northern town of Yarumal. The group, he now says, was organized and led by Santiago Uribe, President Álvaro Uribe's brother.
And on Uribe's own knowledge of the group:
Q: What was the role of Álvaro Uribe, a rising politician and senator with an eye on national office, as all this was going on in Yarumal?
A: "What I knew about Álvaro is what Santiago told me. In that time, he said to me, 'Don't worry, lieutenant. My brother, Álvaro, knows all about this."
Uribe's response to the story, which first ran in the Washington Post and Pagina 12 of Argentina was "I don't read international newspapers."

Uribe has a history of not hiding his discontent when reporters ask question he doesn't like, but I don't expect he'll be able to plead ignorance for much longer on this one.

What Uribe eventually does say just may end up helping Mockus convince the Colombian electorate that he's the candidate they're after in a "change" election.

Image Source: Colombia Reports
Online Sources: Colombia Reports, LA Times, Washington Post, BBC Mundo, Americas Quarterly


Alfredo said...

Uribe has too much baggage. He is damaged goods.

Ben G. said...

My initial reaction was to agree, but it's hard to say that with too much certainty for a pres with a 73% approval rating (never below 63% in 8 years).

So I think that Uribe, if he were running again, would win in a landslide. But Santos is no Uribe, and the question is will the association with the good elements of the Uribe term be enough or will ppl associate him with the darker side of the Uribe years.