Saturday, November 2, 2013

Prison for Presidents?

President Santos made a pointed observation the other day: No high official of his administration has been sent to prison, or even accused of serious crimes, he said, "in contrast to previous administrations, in which half the ministers ended up in prison."

Nobody doubted that Santos was referring to his predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, many of whose allies went to prison in the parapolitica scandal for taking money from illegal, far-right paramilitary death squads.

Significantly, Santos himself was Uribe's defense minister. And during Uribe's government the military became notorious for collaborating with and turning a bliind eye to paramiltary crimes. And, in the falsos positivos scandal, military units killed thousands of civilians and reported them as guerrillas in order to earn bonuses or time off. Santos himself was not connected to either scandal.

Uribe was connected, however. And he's now being investigated by courts in both Bogotá and Medellin for allegedly supporting the paramilitaries.

So, when the never-subtle Uribe said that Santos should be in prison "for deceiving 90% of 9 million voters," he looked more than a bit hypocritical. Rather than Colombian law, Uribe was referring to the law of loyalty to Uribe. Uribe chose Santos as his succesor, But Santos has softened Uribe's hard-line military policy and is negotiating with the guerrillas.

The spat comes at a sensitive time for both men. Santos' reelection hopes may ride on the outcome of the negotiations with the FARC guerrillas going on in Havana, Cuba. But those talks seem to have bogged down. For his part, Uribe has established his own party, the Centro Democratico, with whichi he is running for Congress. But the Centro Democratico's recent convention passed over Francisco Santos, widely seen as its strongest presidential candidate (and Pres. Santos's cousin) and chose instead an Uribe favorite, ex-minister Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who seems to lack the necessary charisma to win.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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