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The Collective
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the BBC: Colombia ‘militia link’ alleged

A commander of Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary AUC has alleged that two members of the current government previously conspired with the group.

[…]

Mancuso, a high-ranking member of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), gave evidence as part of the 2003 peace deal which has led to the demobilisation of thousands of paramilitary fighters.

He has alleged that Colombia’s Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos met paramilitaries between 1996 and 1997 to help plot the overthrow of then President Ernesto Samper.

Mancuso also claimed he met Vice-President Francisco Santos, the defence minister’s cousin, in the late 1990s to discuss the creation of a new militia group to fight guerrillas in the capital, Bogota.

Mancuso has credibility in such revelations, as he is the main source for the entire “Treaty of Ralito” situation that has led to the arrest of over 20 current and former members of congress.

The Santos family has been prominent in Liberal Party politics for over a century (although they now are allied with Uribe, a former Liberal without a formal party affiliation), and has controlled the nation’s leading newspaper, El Tiempo.

Speaking of El Tiempo, in its story on this testimony it states that there were about four meetings between the current VP and paramilitary leader. There is also an allegation that the current Defense MInister met with the infamous Carlo Castaño (one time AUC leader, now deceased):

Sin mencionar nunca el contexto de los encuentros, el ex Auc habló de al menos cuatro reuniones del hoy Vicepresidente con jefes paramilitares en la Costa y Bogotá. Entre ellas incluyó una que, según dijo, fue en la sede de EL TIEMPO con varios periodistas.

Antes, Mancuso había hablado de Juan Manuel Santos, y de dos encuentros suyos con él y con Castaño en Córdoba.

According to the report, Mancuso alleges that the paramilitaries also met with four generals to coordinate activities.

The most explosive element of the testimony, according to the El Tiempo story is that Mancuso accuses the current Defense Minister of discussing a “type of coup” against the Samper administration:

“Durante la charla Santos le preguntó (a Castaño) que tan comprometido estaba el presidente Samper con el narcotráfico, a lo cual Castaño le respondió afirmativamente. Incluso le mencionó que tenía pruebas. En palabras del ex Auc, les propuso “una especie de golpe de Estado”. Fue, cuando, según dijo, el presidente Samper supo y se comenzó a hablar de “los conspiretas”.

The NYT version of the story describes the situation as follows:

President Álvaro Uribe, the Bush administration’s closest ally in Latin America, faces an intensifying scandal after a jailed former commander of paramilitary death squads testified Tuesday that Mr. Uribe’s defense minister had tried to plot with the outlawed private militias to upset the rule of a former president.

Speaking at a closed court hearing in Medellín, Salvatore Mancuso, the former paramilitary warlord, said Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos had met with paramilitary leaders in the mid-1990s to discuss efforts to destabilize the president at the time, Ernesto Samper, according to judicial officials.

The story also notes that Defense Minister Santos states that his meeting with the paramilitary groups was for the purpose of peace talks, and that there was a journalist present at the meetings. Further, the meeting included other important functionaries, including ex-President Betancur. Certainly such facts would be possible to verify, although it is unclear if these meetings are the ones that Mancuso is speaking of.

One of the accused general stated that this was Mancuso’s attempt at revenge.

The government has declined to comment at this point.

Technorati Tags: parapolitical, para politica, para politics, Salvatore Mancuso, Juan Manuel Santos, Francisco Santos

Sphere: Related Content

Filed under: Colombia | |

1 Comment

  1. Sin mencionar nunca el contexto de los encuentros, el ex Auc habló de al menos cuatro reuniones del hoy Vicepresidente con jefes paramilitares en la Costa y Bogotá. Entre ellas incluyó una que, según dijo, fue en la sede de EL TIEMPO con varios periodistas.

    Hey, its a bad idea to quote stuff in Mexican, its just going to encourage the illegals to keep on coming here.

    Comment by Ratoe — Wednesday, May 16, 2007 @ 8:39 am

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