Sunday, July 31, 2011

Out Of The Palace and Into Prison

Pres. Alvaro Uribe's administration ended last year with tremendous popularity, thanks to improved security and a vigorous economy.

But if Uribe's top officials expected to turn that success into flourishing political careers, some were very mistaken.

Bernardo Moreno faces the music.
This weekend, Uribe's one-time chief of staff Bernardo Moreno was jailed by a judge in relation to the chuzados scandal, in which the Administrative Security Department, or DAS, wiretapped journalists, judges and even other politicians.

Andrés Felipe Arias in trouble.
And, less than a week ago, Uribe's agriculture minister and one-time apparent heir apparent Andrés Felipe Arias was jailed for a scandal in an agricultural subsidy scheme called 'Agro Ingreso Seguro' intended to help struggling peasants. Instead, some of the payments allegedly went to the rich and powerful, including an ex-beauty queen, prominent political families and narcotraffickers.

Both have yet to be tried and deny the accusations.

Last November, Maria de Pilar Hurtado, the head of the DAS under Uribe obtained asylum in Panama after Colombian law enforcement moved against her for the wiretapping scandal.

Uribe has stuck by his ex-officials. He helped Hurtado obtain asylum in Panama, and he visited ex-ag minister Arias in prison. Uribe accused one judge involved of bias and said that Moreno's arrest was "unacceptable" and that Moreno was only defending his honor.

Uribe has had his own legal troubles. He's been ordered to testify in a United States trial about alleged ties between the Drummond coal company's Colombian operations and killings by right-wing paramilitaries. Uribe himself is not accused in the case.

Yet another scandal, the falsos positivos, in which military units kidnapped young men, killed them and reported them as guerrillas, has sent some military officers to prison but has not touched Uribe personally.

Uribe was extremely popular during his presidency, and there's talk of him running for another term or for mayor of Bogotá. And these ongoing scandals involving his administration don't appear to have hurt his support much: he's still got 60% support in polls.

Like many scandals, the responses to these one show that Colombia's judiciary does act.

Related: Our of Uribe's Palace and into Prison: the Sequel.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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