Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Out of Uribe's Palace and Into Prison - II

Ex-Pres. Uribe: Better to leave
him off of your resume.
The procession of ex-Alvaro Uribe administration officials into legal trouble continues.

Already, ex-Pres. Uribe's Minister of Agriculture Andres Felipe Arias was arrested for alleged corruption in an agricultural subsidies program, which doled out support to the wealthy and influential, including a one-time beauty queen. Uribe's ex-chief of staff Bernardo Moreno was also jailed on charges stemming from the chuzadas scandal, in which Uribe allegedly ordered the DAS, or secret police, to spy on supreme court justices who were investigating him.

Hurtado: A free ticket home from Panama?
Now, Colombia has asked Panama to extradite ex-DAS Director Maria de Pilar Hurtado, who fled there after the chuzadas scandal broke. Top Panama politicians are reported to be divided on whether or not to hand over the one-time secret police chief. But a photo of Pilar Hurtado partying away in Panama while on the lam from charges in her own country didn't help her case.

Prosecutors have also called for the arrest of Uribe's Peace Commissioner, Juan Carlos Restrepo, on charges related to an allegedly staged demobilization of FARC guerrillas in 2006. Allegedly, non-guerrillas were hired to pretend to be guerrillas turning in their weapons to generate positive P.R. for the government.

The ex-Uribe officials' legal travails are a dramatic turnaround for an administration which ended with enormous popularity for its progress against Colombia's leftist guerrillas. But the charges could also indicate Uribe's willingness to ignore legality and civil rights in his determination to beat back the guerrillas and perhaps extend his own power.

Uribe's popularity was such that he succeeded in having the Constitution amended to enable him to run for a second term. And, his popularity would almost surely have carried him to a third consecutive term if the high court had not ruled that unconstitutional.

Uribe himself has encountered legal troubles in the United States, where he's been called to testify in a case involving alleged crimes by paramilitary groups.

But the cases also indicate once again the Colombian court's independence and their willingness to go after even popular figures. To his credit, current Pres. Juan Manuel Santos, who was Uribe's defense minister, has not interfered with the cases.

Related: Out of the Palace and Into Prison

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By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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