14 May 2008

Colombian government silences paramilitary leaders

There was too much heat in the kitchen, someone had to cool things down. What better way than the chef cleaning out the stove?

Chef de cuisine [jefe de coc(a)ina] Alvaro Uribe has done just that, as the BBC informs us "Colombia has extradited 14 former paramilitary leaders to the US to face charges of drug trafficking."

'What's he talking about?' I hear you say. And no wonder if you get your news from the BBC: "Investigations have so far linked dozens of current and former politicians to the paramilitaries - 31 have been jailed." The BBC cleverly and purposefully only tells half the truth so that the ordinary citizen, who doesn't have the time to spend hundreds of hours a week researching the internet, is misinformed, they don't tell us that nearly all are supporters of Uribe.

Over at the Center for International Policy's website Plan Colombia and Beyond, they have what they call a "Current “para-politicians” list", actually prepared by the Colombian NGO Fundación INDEPAZ: "There are now fifty-five Colombian national political figures - nearly all of them supporters of the current government - under investigation, on trial, or already found guilty of collaborating with paramilitary groups."

According to WSWS:

"Altogether 32 members of Congress have been arrested and another 30 are under investigation. Out of these, 54 are drawn from Uribe’s ruling coalition. Eighteen of these renounced their parliamentary immunity in order to shift their investigations to the Colombian attorney general’s office, rather than the country’s high court. At this point, nearly one third of Colombia’s lawmakers are facing judicial charges or investigations over their connections with paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers.
There are parties, such as Colombia Viva, part of the ruling coalition, in which 100 percent of their elected lawmakers are either in jail or under investigation. In Mario Uribe’s Colombia Democrática party, five out of its six members in the senate are accused of collaborating with the paramilitaries, with one, Senator Álvaro Garcia, charged with helping to organize a massacre

Things were already hot as we can see, but why the extraditions now?

Problems recently excalated to boiling point with Uribe under investigation himself and implicated in paramilitary death squad probe accused by a former member of the paramilitary of planning a 1997 massacre at Aro. The massacre resulted in 15 peasants’ deaths while Uribe was governor of that province, Antioquia. One of the extradited Colombians Salvatore Mancuso was sentenced to serve 40 years in prison for the massacre, and the Colombian government was found by the courts to be responsible for the massacre. Coincidence?

This also came just a few days after the arrest in Bogota of ex-Senator Mario Uribe Escobar, the cousin of Colombia’s president, on charges of involvement in the country’s paramilitary death squads.

The BBC do mention this however: "Some Colombians fear, however, that extraditing the militia leaders to the US means they will not face justice in Colombia or reveal their alleged links to many government figures." But who are 'some Colombians' the BBC refers to?

According to IPS they are human rights "experts":

"Iván Cepeda, spokesman for the Movement of Victims of Crimes of the State (MOVICE), complained to the press that the extraditions would "seriously affect" the rights of survivors, and said they were aimed at keeping the paramilitary leaders from continuing to provide the names of military, political and business accomplices and allies.

Eduardo Carreño, vice president of the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective, a human rights group, told IPS that "this move confirms what we have said from the start: that a Congress with a strong paramilitary presence legislated on its own behalf, and that the victims are the forgotten ones in this process." "

Really, this a scandal of the highest order:

The BBC states lamely, relying as usual on unnamed"US officials" who " have said they will co-operate with Colombian prosecutors in their investigations."

IPS again:

"The Uribe administration says it will send prosecutors and lawyers to the United States to collect the testimony of the former paramilitary chiefs, in order for the justice and peace law process to continue.

Santiago Rodríguez, the former lawyer of Colombian drug trafficker Hernando Gómez Bustamante, who was extradited to the United States in mid-2007 after being deported to Colombia from Cuba, pointed out that a person cannot be tried for the same crime in two different places.

Furthermore, said Rodríguez, everything that the extradited paramilitaries say from this moment on can be used against them. "I would not allow a client of mine to talk" about crimes committed in Colombia other than drug trafficking offences, for which the 14 were extradited, the Cuban-American lawyer said in a telephone interview from the United States with the Bogotá station W Radio.

He said he would only allow his client to talk if there were a written agreement approved by the U.S. Justice Department guaranteeing protection from prosecution for other crimes.

He pointed out that according to the U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence, testimony on other crimes provided by defendants during a trial -- like the kind of confessions required by the justice and peace law -- can be used against them.

According to Rodríguez, that means the former paramilitary chiefs extradited to the United States should not have to cooperate with the Colombian justice system, which could complicate their legal situation in the United States. "Protections would have to be put in writing," he reiterated.

Leftwing Senator Gustavo Petro said President Uribe "dealt several blows in one" with the extraditions. "The first blow," he told IPS, "is against truth." "If Uribe says there is a pact with the United States" for the prosecution of war crimes to continue in that country, which does not recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, "it is a secret pact, because no one knows about it. The only thing the U.S. is interested in is curbing drug trafficking," he said. "The second blow is against the victims and the possibility of compensation, which becomes even more remote if the truth is not revealed," and "the third is against Colombian justice," because with this decision, the president is "disregarding the Colombian justice system and recognising the U.S. system," said the senator."

Of course, the BBC would never dare tell its readers any of this information. Nor anything on President Uribe’s 'Hidden Past', which I detailed in an unanswered letter to the NYT's Simon Romero last October:

"1. His father, Alberto Uribe Vélez, was himself subject to an extradition warrant to face charges of drug trafficking in the US.
2. Uribe Jr grew up with the children of Fabio Ochoa, a key player at the time in the Medellín cocaine cartel.
3. After being elected Mayor of Medellín, the second city of Colombia, at the age of 26, he was removed from office after only three months by a central government embarrassed by his public ties to the drug Mafia.
4. He was made Director of Civil Aviation, where he issued pilots’ licences to Pablo Escobar’s fleet of light aircraft flying cocaine to Florida.
5. In April 2002, Noticias Uno, a current affairs programme on the TV station Canal Uno, examined alleged links between Uribe and the Medellín cocaine cartel. After the reports were aired, unidentified men threatened to kill the show’s producer, Ignacio Gómez.
6. Noticias Uno told the story of how in 1997 the US Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) seized 50,000 kilos of potassium permanganate from a ship docked in San Francisco. Permanganate is a chemical used in the production of cocaine. The cargo was bound for a company headed by Pedro Juan Moreno Villa, President Uribe’s campaign manager, and was sufficient to produce cocaine with a street value of $15 billion. Morena Villa’s company was Colombia’s biggest importer of potassium permanganate between 1994 and 1998. When Uribe was Governor of Antioquia, Moreno Villa was his chief of staff and Medellín was the world’s cocaine capital. (I presume you are also aware of the mysterious death since of Pedro Juan Moreno Villa, who was killed last year, Feb 2006)"

Tom Feiling of Justice for Colombia: Álvaro Uribe Vélez Links to cocaine cartels?
Al Giordano of Narco News: Uribe's Rise from Medellín: Precursor to a Narco-StateHis Campaign Manager, the DEA, and the Case of the 50,000 Kilos
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE Drug Enforcement Administration: January 17, 1998 Shipment of 10,000 Kilograms of Potassium Permanganate, December 16, 1997 Shipment of 20,000 Kilograms of Potassium Permanganate and November 17, 1997 Shipment of 20,000 Kilograms of Potassium Permanganate; Suspension of Shipments
The New Colombia News Agency (ANNCOL) 11.04.2006 Que todo parezca un accidente

No comments: