Connect to share and comment

Colombia: The dark side of Alvaro Uribe

So far, retirement has been a little rocky for the hugely popular former president.

Florez persuaded a cleaning lady to place a tiny tape recorder in the main chambers of the court which allowed the DAS to monitor the judges as they discussed criminal accusations against Uribe’s allies. The agent paid large sums for photocopies of court documents and even tried to record sessions with a tiny video camera.

Florez testified that Maria del Pilar Hurtado, who then headed the DAS and is now under investigation, knew all about her mission. “She was very pleased with our work,” Florez said.

So far, no smoking guns have emerged to tie Uribe directly to the case.

But former DAS agents claim the information on the Supreme Court was ordered by top officials and sent to the presidential palace. One ex-spy told investigators: “The president’s office demanded immediate results.”

Besides Uribe’s hand-picked DAS chief, his chief of staff, his attorney and several other close aides are also under investigation. Their legal problems prompted a quip from former Colombian president Andres Pastrana.

Noting that several of his former ministers have joined the new Colombian government, Pastrana said: “My aides are being called to serve. Uribe’s aides are being called to testify.”

While in office, none of these scandals dented Uribe’s popularity, which is why he was known as the Teflon president. Yet accusations of wrongdoing now dog Uribe as he builds a new life as an ex-president.

For example, Uribe’s inclusion last month on a U.N. panel that is investigating Israel's May 31 storming of a Turkish-owned flotilla bound for Gaza brought a new round of protests. Human rights activists claimed Uribe is not qualified to defend international law, in part, because he ordered an illegal cross-border military raid into Ecuador in 2008 that killed a Colombian guerrilla leader.

At Georgetown, where Uribe assumed his new post as “distinguished scholar in the practice of global leadership,” demonstrators pointed out that under his watch Colombian troops were accused of killing thousands of innocent civilians and dressing them up as guerrillas.

But fans of the former president also showed up at Georgetown to claim that his overall record — which includes military victories against Marxist rebels, a steep reduction in kidnappings and an economic boom — far outweigh the negatives. One supporter told reporters: “Uribe has been able to give more security to the Colombian people and I think that’s something very admirable.”

Many Colombians agree. Indeed, Uribe is considering running next year for mayor of Bogota — the country's second-most important political post — and polls indicate that, should he declare his candidacy, he would be the instant front runner.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/colombia/100914/uribe-corruption-scandals