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August 25, 2007
Imprisoned AUC Commander Loses Demobilization Benefits
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombia warlord loses benefits

The authorities said they had evidence that Carlos Jimenez, also known as Macaco, was continuing to smuggle drugs and run a criminal empire from prison.

He has been transferred to Colombia’s most secure prison, Combita, and will be tried as an ordinary criminal.

Jimenez could also be extradited to the US although no request has been made.

The move means Jimenez loses the benefits given to demobilised paramilitaries, including shorter sentences.

The idea that Jimenez could have been continuing criminal activities in prison is hardly a surprise. Indeed, for anyone familiar with Colombia’s track record on curtailing criminal activity by high profile prisoners, this news will likely elicit nothing more than a yawn.

The interesting part is that Jimenez’s actions are in violation of the demobilization agreement between the government at the paramilitary group known at the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The real question now will be if the Colombia justice system actually succeeds in treating Jimenez like a common criminal, and it will be quite interesting to see if the US seeks his extradition. From there the real question will be if this will dissuade other imprisoned AUC commanders from continuing their criminal activities.

Filed under: Justicia, Paramilitares | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
August 2, 2007
The Judiciary Rallies Around Supreme Court Against Uribe on the Para Peace Plan
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor


Reuters AlertNet - Colombia high court wins support in Uribe dispute

Colombian judges rallied around the country’s Supreme Court on Wednesday as President Alvaro Uribe seeks to bypass its decision to ban former right-wing paramilitaries from running for political office.

The fight between the president and the high court threatens to unravel a peace deal in which 31,000 former paramilitary fighters have turned in their guns in exchange for pardons and the right to hold public positions.

Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office, the Constitutional Court and other legal institutions met on Tuesday to express their support for the Supreme Court.

A spokesman for the high court said a statement was expected on Wednesday from the institutions “backing the court in this argument with the president.”

Last month it decided that demobilized paramilitary fighters must be charged with common crimes like drug trafficking and murder rather than with sedition.

The ruling shook the foundation of the peace deal, which promises that many paramilitaries will face only political charges, which can be pardoned, in connection to their 20-year struggle against left-wing rebels.

Once pardoned, they would be able to run for political office, an avenue that is closed if they have a serious criminal conviction on their records.

If the Supreme Court decision stands, many “paras” have said they will stop cooperating with investigators and halt the turnover of their illegally acquired wealth.

I would note that it is unclear as to whether they are, in fact, being required to turn over their ill-gotten gains.

This situation is very interesting and has multiple components, not the least of which being a test of the institutional strength of the judicial branch vis-a-vis the executive. There is also the very real issue of the appropriate manner for treating the paramilitaries. While by the numbers it would seem that there has been a substantial demobilization, which is quite positive given that the paras are very much responsible for the lion’s share of the violence in the last decade plus, the problem is that it seems that many of them are not staying demobilized.

Uribe appears headed to the Congress to seek a legislative remedy. One would think that he would have a very good chance of getting it, given his support in the legislature. On the other hand, he has suffered in the eyes of public opinion (although he is still around 66% approval) and one wonders if that will affect some of that legislative support, given that it rests on a coalition of smaller parties, rather than on one large one tied directly to the President. Uribe ran as an independent affiliated with parties who ran in the congressional elections rather than actually joining a party himself.

The issue also has some short-term importance, given that:

Several former militia fighters say they plan to run in October provincial elections, sparking concern that paramilitaries may not only get away with the crimes they committed, but might end up running parts of the country.

Filed under: Justicia, Paramilitares | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack
July 25, 2007
Paramilitary Groups React to Court Ruling
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN: Militia bosses vow to stop cooperating in Colombia

Colombia’s peace process with far-right paramilitaries has plunged into a new crisis after warlords vowed to stop cooperating with prosecutors investigating their role in some of the country’s worst massacres.

The decision was made to protest the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that a demobilized paramilitary fighter in Antioquia state is not entitled to special benefits as a former subversive.

The reversal is the latest blow to a fragile 2003 peace accord that has led some 31,000 right-wing fighters to disarm but has been so far unable to provide reparations to their victims or wrest major confessions from some 60 jailed paramilitary warlords.

“With this decision the reconstruction of the historical truth, the handing over of mass graves and other legal obligations assumed under the peace pact are frozen,” said Antonio Lopez, a spokesman for the jailed paramilitary bosses. “We can’t allow our fighters to be treated like common criminals.”

President Alvaro Uribe said Tuesday he disagreed with the court’s ruling even as his ministers pledged to put the peace process back on track.

“I’ve repeated several times in the past five years of government: If the guerrillas are recognized as subversives, the same criteria should be applied to the paramilitaries,” Uribe said.

The issue at hand is whether demilitarized paramilitary members and demilitarized guerrillas should be treated the same under the law and through the peace process:

On July 11, the Supreme Court quietly upheld a lower court ruling denying Orlando Cesar Caballero, a member of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, benefits such as a maximum eight-year jail sentence in exchange for renouncing violence and confessing crimes to special prosecutors.

“To accept that instead of criminal conspiracy, paramilitary members committed treason not only supposes they acted with altruistic aims for the collective good, but also flaunts the rights of victims and society to obtain justice and truth,” the court said.

Filed under: Justicia, Paramilitares | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack
June 27, 2007
Drug Kingpin Arrested in Colombia
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT:Major drug suspect seized in Colombia

The capture of Herrera was one of the most important drug trafficking arrests in Colombia in recent years, a U.S. law enforcement official said Tuesday. Herrera is thought to have worked for various Colombian and Mexican cartels, he said.

[…]

A 2003 indictment in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleges that Herrera annually managed the shipment of several multi-ton loads of Colombian cocaine, ferrying it by air, land or sea to U.S. markets via Central America and Mexico.

After escaping from the Mexico City jail, Herrera allegedly did anything but retire. Authorities say he became instrumental in repatriating hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit profit from Colombian drug traffickers.

Sources said that Herrera was seized while arranging for a single-engine aircraft to carry $25 million from Central America to Colombia.

The piece starts with a story about how he tried to bribe the cops with $5 million. Apparently he can afford it:

After Herrera’s arrest in Mexico in April 2004, police searching his house in Guatemala found $14 million in cash. Herrera has “many properties” in Colombia and was heavily involved in laundering the drug profits he helped bring back here, DAS detectives said.

Filed under: Drogas, Justicia | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
May 18, 2007
This Week in Colombia
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Plan Colombia and Beyond has a good link/news roundup for those interested in the dramatic week that has been taking place in Colombia.

Filed under: Parapolitica, FARC, Justicia | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
March 22, 2007
More Parapolitica: Supreme Court Orders Testimony
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Colombia’s Supreme Court orders 5 more politicians testify on ties to death squads

Colombia’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered five more politicians to answer for their alleged ties to far-right death squads in Colombia’s worst political scandal in decades.

The five are to testify on why they signed a letter of understanding with the United Self-defense Forces of Colombia, the illegal militia’s national umbrella group, in 2001.

The four senators and a congressman are accused of conspiracy to commit a crime, said Alfredo Gomez, president of the criminal wing of the Supreme Court.

The politicians are all from Colombia’s Caribbean coast, a longtime paramilitary stronghold.

On Tuesday, Colombia’s chief federal prosecutor ordered 20 prominent politicians to give sworn testimony about their signing of the secret document, called the “Ralito Pact,” after the town where it was inked.

The article does not name the politicians in question.

Filed under: Justicia, Paramilitares | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
March 13, 2007
More “Para” Politics: Governor of Magdalena Arrested
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Colombia orders governor arrest in “para” scandal

A governor of a northern Colombian province on Monday became the latest target of a probe that has tied several allies of President Alvaro Uribe to right-wing paramilitaries accused of massacres and atrocities.

Colombian prosecutors have ordered Magdalena province Gov. Trino Luna arrested on suspicion he colluded with the illegal militias who once fought a dirty war against the country’s four-decade-old rebel insurgency.

[…]

Luna, elected in 2003, was the only candidate who ran for the governorship. Other hopefuls later charged they had been pressured not to run and threatened by paramilitary commanders.

The governor told local radio that he would temporarily step down to allow the local government to continue working during the investigation. The president must suspend Luna from his post before the governor can be arrested.

The governor joins eight pro-Uribe lawmakers and a former security police chief who have been arrested on charges they cooperated with the illegal paramilitaries whose commanders have now been jailed after a peace deal with the government.

More from the LAT: Colombia paramilitary scandal widens

The scandal tying political supporters of President Alvaro Uribe with outlawed paramilitary leaders widened Monday as prosecutors filed electoral fraud charges against Trino Luna, the governor of the influential coastal state of Magdalena.

Also, Interpol disclosed that it had issued an international arrest warrant on kidnapping charges for Alvaro Araujo Noguera, a former congressman and minister who is the father of former Foreign Minister Maria Consuelo Araujo. She resigned last month after her brother, Sen. Alvaro Araujo, was jailed on suspicion of conspiring with paramilitaries to kidnap a political rival.

Technorati tags: Colombia parapolitica paramilitaries

Filed under: Justicia | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack
March 3, 2007
More Legal Trouble for the Araujo Family (Parapolitica)
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC:  Colombia political scandal widens

Colombian prosecutors have ordered the arrest of the father of an ex-minister following an inquiry into links between politicians and right-wing militias.

Alvaro Araujo Noguera, a prominent former politician, is charged with helping to kidnap a political rival.

Of course, his son (a Senator) has already been arrested and his daughter was the Foreign Minister until she resigned less that two weeks ago.

Technorati Tags: Colombia, Araujo, Parapolitica

Filed under: Justicia | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
February 22, 2007
More Parapolitics: Former DAS Chief Arrested
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombia’s ex-spy chief charged

Colombia’s former intelligence chief has been arrested and charged with murder and collaborating with right-wing militias.

Jorge Noguera, head of the Administrative Security Department (DAS), resigned in October but has denied any wrongdoing.

Eight members of President Alvaro Uribe’s coalition have been jailed for supporting drug-running militias.

I am still in the process trying to absorb the “parapolitica” situation. My early reaction is that this is the kind of thing that is simultaneously good and bad. Bad for obvious reasons, given the seriousness of the charges. The good part is that the justice system is rooting out, and arresting, high level members of the government for serious human rights violations.

Filed under: Uribe's Cabinet, Justicia | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack
February 18, 2007
Senator, Brother of DefMin, Arrested for Paramilitary Ties
By Dr. Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombian politician is arrested

The brother of Colombias foreign minister has been arrested on suspicion of ties with paramilitaries involved in the countrys drug trade.

Senator Alvaro Araujo is the highest ranking politician to be arrested as part of the investigation.

Further warrants have been issued for five other lawmakers allied to President Alvaro Uribe.

Three other lawmakers were jailed in November for links to paramilitaries fighting leftwing rebel groups.

The penetration of electoral politics by violent actors is hardly a shock. The real question is how far these investigations will go and to what degree it will possible to excise some connections from electoral politics.

At a minimum we can hope that this is the case:

Analysts say that the arrests are encouraging as they show increasing transparency in Colombian politics.

“Everyone knew the paramilitaries had infiltrated Congress,” said Pablo Casas of Colombian think-tank Security and Democracy.

“The good news is that the justice system is showing a certain level of independence.”

Filed under: Rama Legislativo, Uribe's Cabinet, Justicia | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack
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