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Editorial 16

Written by October 10 2020 0

A Bogota District Court – having been assigned a case involving witness-tampering allegations earlier brought before an investigative unit of Colombia’s Supreme Court (“Sala de Instruccion”) – this morning (October 10) ordered the release from house arrest of former Colombia President (and former Senator) Alvaro Uribe.

District Court Judge Clara Ximena Salcedo found that under Colombia’s Constitution, it’s illegal to detain anyone that hasn’t been charged with a crime.
It’s now up to Colombia’s Attorney General to decide whether and with what evidence former President Uribe should be charged and tried on allegations originating from left-wing Senator Ivan Cepeda claiming that Uribe and one of his lawyers were involved in a witness-tampering scheme.

Understanding the Background

Senator Cepeda – who has dedicated his entire career to a vendetta against President Uribe -- continues to claim that his late father Manuel Cepeda was actually a victim of a plot by the Colombian government -- and by inference, supposedly Uribe can be seen tangentially for blame.

Manuel Cepeda -- a member of the Central Committee of the Colombian Communist Party -- was murdered in 1994 by former “AUC” paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño in an act of revenge for an earlier murder of an AUC member by the narco-communist FARC army. The FARC at the time was in political alliance with the Colombian Communist Party -- and the current FARC members in Congress (all former FARC guerrilla leaders) are very friendly with Cepeda's son, Ivan.

In Ivan Cepeda’s way of thinking, former President Alvaro Uribe can be seen as the ultimate source of the rise of Colombian paramilitaries -- including those involved in his father’s murder -- even though Uribe didn’t become Colombian President until eight years after his father's murder, and Ivan Cepeda has never accused Uribe of actual involvement in the murder.

Ironically, it  was former President Cesar Gaviria – not former President Uribe – who legally founded the “Convivir” rural paramilitary movement (later succeeded by the AUC). “Convivir” at first was dedicated exclusively to fighting the FARC terrorists but eventually – mainly due to a lack of government funding -- degenerated into yet another narco-terrorist group, fighting against its rival FARC.

In Colombia’s never-ending political cannibalism, Uribe had earlier publicly charged that Senator Cepeda illegally tried to get jailed paramilitary criminals – including several jailed and/or extradited to the U.S. by Uribe – to take revenge against Uribe with trumped-up charges of involvement in alleged paramilitary murders of supposedly innocent civilians decades ago.

When a Colombian court dismissed Uribe’s allegations of Cepeda’s witness tampering, the court instead took-up Cepeda’s counter-charges, claiming Uribe and one of his lawyers illegally tampered with those same criminal witnesses.

To better understand the reasons behind Senator Cepeda’s vendetta against Uribe – a vendetta not coincidentally shared by Uribe rival, former President Manuel Santos and several of President Santos’ financially corrupted appointees to Colombia’s Supreme Court – it’s useful to examine a January 13, 2015 investigative report by astute Colombian political blog, Trinchera Politica.

We reproduce below (in full) an English translation of the Trinchera Politica report here:

Iván Cepeda: Revenge of the Heir to the 42nd Front of the FARC
Author: Trinchera Politica (blog)
13 January 2015

Manuel Cepeda Vargas [Senator Ivan Cepeda’s father] was a leftist ideologue, perhaps the one who best applied the concept of the [late Soviet Union Communist dictator Vladimir Lenin’s] ‘combination of all forms of struggle’ to achieve power.

Not in vain, [Manuel Cepeda’s] comrade Álvaro Delgado describes in his book, All Past Times Were Worse: “Like an unscrupulous man who fell in love with the [FARC] monster that he created together with the Communist Party, Manuel Cepeda Vargas helped the FARC to cleanse the Communist Party of all those [idealistic militants] who got tired of the massacres and violence that the FARC carried out.”

For his part, Steven Dudley, in his book Armas y Urnas [Weapons and Ballot-Boxes] with a single sentence shows how monstrous Cepeda Vargas became: “Manuel Cepeda was an 'orthodox' communist who first marginalized the democratic socialists (...) who defended the ‘combination of all forms of struggle.’ Using both legal and illegal means to take power was Manuel’s creed and, as a member of the Communist Party, he had among his responsibilities to maintain contact with the FARC (…) [but] his indiscretions cost him his life.”

Thanks to their tenacity in defending the armed struggle regardless of the methods, the FARC christened their most bloodthirsty Front with the name, ‘Manuel Cepeda Vargas.’

It is not in vain that the FARC Front that bears his name did not mind destroying an entire town in order to assassinate a few soldiers. You just have to see how Manuel Cepeda’s friend Álvaro Delgado, a fellow member of the Communist Party, describes [Manuel Cepeda], and how he is shown in the book, Weapons and Ballot-Boxes, in which they unmask a man who [possibly unwittingly] helped annihilate his own political party [including the Union Patriotica (UP) coalition] to justify the armed struggle. For a sinister character like this, the popular adage that says ‘the end justifies the means’ fits very well.

The FARC learned very well from their teacher and as the book Armas y Urnas shows, the FARC, by order of Jacobo Arenas, undertook [murders] against the [Communist-Party-led coalition] Union Patriotico (UP) in order to justify their armed struggle by murdering hundreds of them. It is for this reason that it is unconvincing that both the Union Patriotico and Manuel Cepeda supposedly died at the hands of [Colombian government] state organizations, because in principle it was the same FARC who persecuted those who demobilized, as they do today by assassinating deserters through their courts-martial.

Manuel Cepeda was assassinated in Bogotá on August 9, 1994, and the Colombian state, in the absence of a legal defense policy, was condemned by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for his murder and [the government] was ordered to write a [sanitized] biography about his life, showing him as an integral man, to cleanse the memory of a being that really, if his life was as his comrades in the struggle paint it, did a lot of damage to our country and rivers of blood that have flowed in his name.

However, this chapter would not end here, as [former AUC leader] Carlos Castaño Gil himself admitted in his book, My Confession, on page 213. Castaño confesses to having directed and ordered the AUC Command to end the life of the then-Senator Manuel Cepeda, in retaliation for a murder [against an AUC member] ordered by the FARC. For Castaño Gil, the death of Manuel Cepeda [supposedly] would be a blow that would hurt the FARC.

But the Colombian Supreme Court declared the evidence [of Carlos Castaño’s confession] was illegal, as it was not provided in due time for the [trial] process, thus leaving the belief that state agents were the ones who murdered [Manuel Cepeda]. But Carlos Castaño's testimony is corroborated by his brother-in-law Jesús Emiro Pereira, a confidant of the head of the AUC, who assured that he himself accompanied the command that would take Cepeda’s life.

Iván Cepeda Castro’s Emergence

In turn, Manuel Cepeda’s son -- now Senator Iván Cepeda Castro, who has always been a member of left-wing parties and who even lived in Communist Cuba during his childhood, was later elected Senator for the Polo Democratico party.

Senator Ivan Cepeda has waged his most stubborn struggle to try to prove that his father was not killed by Carlos Castaño, but rather by the Colombian state and thus clear the name of his late father. Even though Carlos Castaño confessed to having ended the life of the late UP Senator [that is, Manuel Cepeda], Senator Ivan Cepeda Castro has tried by all possible means to have the death of his father be recognized as a crime of the state.

Now Senator Iván Cepeda Castro -- as founder of the “Manuel Cepeda Vargas Foundation” and from his jurisdiction as defender of the human rights of state victims -- has proposed to tell the story of the [Colombian guerrilla] conflict through organizations such as Memoria Historica, which is presided over by the confessed former ELN guerrilla member Leon Valencia.

If Iván Cepeda has tried to distort the story of his father’s death, then how can we expect the story of the conflict to be told? Perhaps in the same way in which he tries to hide that the death of his father was executed by Carlos Castaño.

Iván Cepeda is also a recognized detractor of the Colombian military forces. We must remember episodes and verbal confrontations such as the one he had with retired General Jaime Ruiz who made mention of the son of a late guerrilla leader who always opposed military-court jurisdiction [over alleged crimes by members of the military].

It is reality that Senator Ivan Cepeda at the beginning of 2013 demanded the end of military jurisdiction [courts] and finally the Constitutional Court declared them unenforceable.

It is really a shame that Colombia is one of the few countries in which the military is judged by the ordinary [civilian] justice system, which knows nothing about issues, procedures and actions within an armed conflict.

But at the same time that Cepeda asks the military to pay [in civil court] for their blunders in the conflict, he asks forgiveness for the FARC for their forced disappearances, laying anti-personnel mines, recruiting boys and girls for war where they were raped and many girls later forced to abort, for attacks on the civilian population, for kidnapping and extorting. Instead, they [FARC terrorists] are sentenced to seats in Congress [under Colombia’s “peace agreement”].

Now let’s talk about Ivan Cepeda's ties with the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective, which had the Colombian state convicted for Manuel Cepeda’s death, and which defends the interests of Iván Cepeda in his prosecution processes.

Iván Cepeda has a great friendship with Alirio Uribe -- former president of the Lawyer’s Collective, and also an ex-M-19 combatant who on September 30, 1985, together with 30 other bandits, hijacked a truck [and] thanks to the reaction of the authorities, 28 were shot, but before dying they blew up the truck, killing several civilians, while two terrorists survived, including Alirio Uribe.

Now in our time Alirio Uribe poses as a dignified and intellectual man who together with Iván Cepda wrote a book defaming former president Alvaro Uribe, called Along the Paths of Uberrimo.

This group is recognized for welcoming and defending only victims of the state and the paramilitaries. But episodes such as the Mapiripán case sound in our memories, where that Collective condemned the Colombian state for said massacre at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

But later, it was possible to prove that of the 20 direct “victims” that this group represented, 12 weren’t in fact victims. Two were actually killed by the FARC prior to the massacre, three others were active members of the FARC, two others survived and one had died of natural death, while another -- a FARC guerrilla named Rusbel Asdrubal -- later demobilized.

In this episode, we Colombians had to pay a sum close to COP$3 billion [US$750,000] for each false victim.

Now Iván Cepeda has lined up batteries against the Centro Democratico party chaired by former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, whom Cepeda wastes no opportunity to persecute and defame.

Iván Cepeda, despite having said that his problem is with the head of the ‘extreme right’ (Uribe), says that he has no personal problem with Uribe, and the most paradoxical thing is that most of the complaints against Senator Uribe today have been promoted by Cepeda, whom Uribe himself has accused of meeting with paramilitaries in prisons to buy testimonies against him, and according to a statement made to the prosecution, at least two paramilitaries would accuse Iván Cepeda of trying to buy testimony against the former president.

Cepeda has repeatedly accused Uribe of having links with the paramilitaries and even of being the promoter of the Convivir, not mentioning the fact that this self-defense group -- created by Carlos Castaño Gil in the 1980s -- was created as a legal figure through Decree 356 of 1994 in the government of then-President Cesar Gaviria, not by President Uribe.

Cepeda fails to mention that the it was President Uribe who demobilized, imprisoned and extradited paramilitaries. Yet Cepeda accuses Uribe of being a paramilitary. And Iván Cepeda himself has met with [Uribe-extradited] paramilitaries in North American prisons, yet accuses Uribe of witness tampering.

Cepeda also hides the main reason for the extraditions, and that is that the Uribe government, through the Justice and Peace Law, conditioned the permanence of those paramilitaries [in local Colombian prisons rather than in U.S. prisons] on the promise of them to stop committing crimes.

But as they continued [to organize] criminal activities from prison, Uribe had them extradited [to U.S. prisons]. Hence many former paramilitary chiefs want to take revenge on Uribe and so far there are many paramilitaries who have been excluded from the Justice and Peace [amnesty] law, so they have declared against Uribe.

This is a juicy breeding ground for characters who hate Uribe to obtain false testimonies, complemented by all the propaganda and disinformation with which they have made against the head of Centro Democratico.

[During a Colombian Congress floor debate], Ivan Cepeda proposed a debate supposedly against paramilitarism. But from the beginning he showed that his objective was to stand against the honor and person of Senator Uribe.

As it is unconstitutional for one Senator to hold a debate against another, he camouflaged said debate by arguing that it was against paramilitarism. But during the debate [Cepeda] only focused on the public, private and family life of Senator Uribe, introducing demagoguery and lies that former President Uribe easily managed to dismiss.

In the debate promoted by Cepeda, allegedly against paramilitarism, we did not hear the name of Carlos Castaño, creator of the AUC Forces, nor the historical background or the reasons that led this character to create said organization, nor the impact that the FARC had on the creation of this monster by assassinating, kidnapping and extorting peasants and businessmen. The debate was only about Álvaro Uribe Velez from beginning to end.

Now, there is a question that always assails Colombians and it is this: why does Iván Cepeda hate Uribe so much?

We see that this hatred is such that Cepeda is able to meet paramilitaries in prisons and seek testimonies against Uribe, as certified by INPEC [Colombia’s prison authority].

We see how every day he seeks a way to attack the former President, for example with an unconstitutional debate in which he intends to act as a judge and ‘show’ Uribe’s links with paramilitarism -- links that he has not been able to demonstrate before the courts.

Why Cepeda distills so much hatred against now-former Senator Uribe [is ironic] because while Cepeda speaks of forgiveness and forgetfulness for the FARC, he refuses to forget the reasons for his personal hatred.

We Colombians do not understand the reasons for so much resentment, especially since during Uribe’s [presidency] the [left-wing] opposition was able to exercise politics freely. Indeed, it was one of the periods in which many leaders of the Left were able to return to the country from exile to engage in politics -- [thanks to President Uribe’s successful actions to prevent] deaths of leftist leaders, trade unionists and journalists.

Of course, there was also a comprehensive defense by the state against the armed Left of this country, who were attacked militarily, politically, economically, propagandistically and above all, against drug trafficking, a fundamental pillar of the economy and financing of the armed Marxist groups.

All these achievements in security [during President Uribe’s two terms] are obvious and the radical and armed Left of this country was deeply wounded to [near] death, so much so that there were massive demobilizations, which implied a disastrous loss -- even worse than the [military] casualties suffered by these Left armed groups.

A combatant who demobilizes did that because he [or she] managed to change thinking, disappointed in those [totalitarian Marxist] ideas. But a combatant who dies in the field of combat was someone who died faithful to ideals.

The great demobilizations of guerrillas [during the Uribe presidency era] shows the ideological crisis that the Uribe government caused within the armed Left. It is obvious that this affected and damaged the political Left as well.

Perhaps Senator Cepeda’s hatred against Uribe can be explained when on February 4, 2008, more than 11 million Colombians marched in repudiation of the FARC [the immense, global ‘No Mas FARC’ marches, by far the biggest in all Colombian history].

And just a month later, Iván Cepeda called a counter-march against the paramilitaries who were already in the process of demobilization at that time. Cepeda was seeking to overshadow the political defeat led by the Colombian people against Marxism.

But the curious thing about the matter is that the FARC on its ‘Anncol’ web-page promoted this march by Cepeda -- though it is said that in several [terrorized, FARC-sieged] municipalities, the FARC forced citizens to go out.

Perhaps this could shed much light about why Iván Cepeda strongly condemns any threat made by alleged paramilitaries, but overstates any act committed outside the law by a member of the public forces -- and is silent in the face of the murders that the FARC committed daily.

It would be good to ask Senator Cepeda if the victims of the FARC do not have human rights – or if they deserve the same human rights of whoever he is defending.

Written by August 17 2020 0

Former Colombia Vice President Germán Vargas Lleras, former Antioquia Governor Luis Perez and current Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero are making noises over supposedly questionable conflicts-of-interest that triggered the mass resignation of EPM’s entire Board of Directors this month following EPM's sudden "conciliation" lawsuit against Hidroituango contractors and insurers.

In an August 15, 2020 interview in daily newspaper El Tiempo (Bogota), Mayor Quintero is quoted as saying that “some members [of EPM’s Board] -- Medellín knows it as a whole -- had or have very close relationships with the defendant consortia” in the conciliation lawsuit.

Similarly, former Colombia VP Vargas claimed in an August 16, 2020 opinion column in daily newspaper El Tiempo (Bogota) that the only way for EPM to recover massive losses caused by a 2018 diversion-tunnel collapse in the US$5 billion “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project is for EPM to do what it just did: sue the project contractors and their insurers, in conciliation (see Medellin Herald August 11, 2020, "EPM, Construction Contractors in Conciliation on US$2.6 Billion Losses from Hidroituango Tunnel Collapse in 2018").

Vargas suggests that this conciliation lawsuit is necessary because the now-departed members of EPM’s Board of Directors didn’t have EPM’s interest at heart, but rather were more interested in protecting Hidroituango contractors and insurers.

Rationale: Some of the newly-exited EPM board members had historic indirect ties to the influential Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño (GEA), a group of companies with interlocking stock holdings and which have had business relationships with EPM for many years.

What’s more, some former EPM general managers have or had worked for GEA companies and/or companies now involved in the conciliation lawsuit, Vargas noted, claiming that this somehow helps explain the mass resignation of the latest Board. Problem with this argument: the former EPM general managers weren’t on the current (just-resigned) EPM Board, undercutting the logic of the critique.

In any case, it’s not clear that even a supposed interest-conflicted Board would have voted to block EPM and Mayor Quintero from bringing the new conciliation lawsuit claims. Reason: They weren’t given a chance to debate the conciliation proposal, so it’s pure speculation to conclude what they would have done.

Former Antioquia Governor Luis Perez – who frequently clashed with former Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez over assigning blame for the Hidroituango diversion-tunnel collapse – likewise made similar insinuations in an August 12 interview with local TV station Cosmovision.

One problem with these Quintero, Vargas and Perez attacks: Except for now-former Board member Luis Fernando Álvarez Jaramillo -- who says on his resume that he is or was a legal advisor to Integral SA, one of the companies being sued in the conciliation proceeding -- the other seven of the eight EPM Board members who just resigned lack any current legal ties to any of the Hidroituango contractors, overseers or insurers – even if some of them had indirect or direct ties in the past. What’s more, only two of the now-former Board members historically had any ties to GEA companies.

Former Board member Andrés Bernal Correa – who in the past had risen to become a VP at Sura, one of the construction-contractor insurance companies being sued in the new conciliation action -- stated in an August 13 interview with local Medellin newspaper Vivir en El Poblado that the Quintero/Rendon decision to bypass the Board and sue contractors and insurers for conciliation contradicted already partly successful negotiations with project insurer Mapfre.

“We were already recovering the money [for Hidroituango damages], in fact the insurer [Mapfre] has already paid close to COP$550 billion (US$145 million),” Bernal said in that interview.

“What the [EPM] manager did [bringing the conciliation lawsuit] is one of the options [for damages recovery] and if we had studied it in the meeting, then we could have defined whether it was the most appropriate or not. We have always sought to recover that money. We were already recovering it. It is not that what the manager did was the only option. There are different paths and the right thing would have been analyzing pros and cons to make the best decision.”

Another of the just-resigned board members is Manuel Santiago Mejía, a founder of major retail group Corbeta and board member of civic-promotion group Proantioquia, which includes many GEA companies. However, Mejía doesn’t have any direct legal interest in the contractors or insurers being sued in the Hidroituango conciliation.

The other now-former EPM board members aren’t directly connected to any of the companies being sued.

Former Board member Aristizábal Guevara -- a retired EPM manager -- was a former board member of the Hidroituango corporate oversight entity, who (at worst) conceivably could be questioned for approving certain engineering decisions that possibly might have been linked to the tunnel-collapse incident. But there’s no published evidence showing he has any legal ties to GEA or the contractors.

Gabriel Ricardo Maya, first appointed to the Board in 2006 by former Medellin Mayor Sergio Fajardo, likewise doesn’t have any proven ties to the companies involved. Similarly, Javier Genaro Gutiérrez Pemberthy -- a former president of Colombia’s mostly state-owned Ecopetrol oil company -- doesn’t have known ties to the companies being sued.

The same lack of any legal ties to the companies being sued goes for now-former Board members Alberto Arroyave Lema and Elena Rico Villegas.

So what is all the noise about some supposed GEA plot and conflicts-of-interest?

ANDI Response

Just ugly noise, according to Bruce MacMaster, President of ANDI, Colombia’s biggest industrial and commercial trade association.

In an August 16 public bulletin issued by ANDI, MacMaster states the following (reproduced below in full):

“There are games that are dangerous and our politics is full of them. Populist attitudes that only seek to win votes by selling illusions [that] are impossible or unsustainable over time.

“The honor of people, as well as the reputation of institutions, is one of the greatest intangible assets that we have.

“During this week, given the serious situation that arose in EPM, the strategy of the municipal administration and some politicians has been to attack the reputation of past administrations and entities that have served Antioquia with honesty and example.

“The destruction of reputation is often effective in order to disqualify those who think differently, but it turns out to be the most unfair strategy intellectually and harmful for those who are being attacked.

“Of course, it is a violation of all the principles of corporate governance to make decisions behind the back of the Board of Directors and, even worse, to suggest that the reason why it was not informed is because it was likely that the decision would be ‘screwed up’ there.

“If that is the case, then how can it be understood that the Mayor [Quintero] was willing to continue with that Board and that he disagrees with its resignation?

“Of course, it is a bad practice of corporate governance [to bypass the Board on transcendental matters] -- and it is not the fault of the Mayor that [under current EPM corporate statutes] the Manager of EPM is handpicked by the Mayor as if he were a cabinet secretary.

“Of course, it is a bad practice of corporate governance for the Mayor to be the Chairman of the Board of EPM. This [current EPM corporate statute] is not the Mayor’s fault either, but it is obviously rejected by all entities such as the OECD. This is indeed an opportunity to put the house in order by changing these two provisions.

“EPM is a company and it is mandatory that everything around it works as such. It cannot be a hybrid between company and secretariat. If Medellín wants our public company to be successful in the market and annually provide more than COP$1 trillion [US$264 million] to the city so that Medellín can continue to be the envy of all, then it has to be well managed.

“There are many challenges EPM has at this time, perhaps more than ever, because EPM requires the most-expert of the experts to lead it.

“Why has the Antioquia business sector participated so actively in the processes of building public policy in the region? For one reason only: because the business sector is one of the few communities that has fully understood that public responsibility is everyone’s responsibility.

“Because the business community has also understood that politicians, in the best of cases, are good at defining public policy, in the legislative exercise, and in social leadership -- but that without a doubt politicians have immense shortcomings that can be strengthened by the administration of companies, in the creation of innovative processes and in the gestation and sustainability of entities that deserve the attention of the entire community, such as universities, museums, parks, or libraries.

“How much we have admired and even envied the commitment of the Antioquia community and society with their region! How many exemplary results have been achieved, which has been recognized by all in Colombia and beyond! Who are bothered by these results? Who wants to appropriate the ‘jewel in the crown?’ [that is, EPM].

“It is paradoxical to try to attack what has been a great virtue: that people who work for their society [are viewed by some] as pernicious. It is impossible not to think that this situation is being used by some politicians as the opportunity to get rid of the discomfort of being audited, accompanied, supervised, controlled and guided. Do politicians really think that they are the only ones with the possibility of giving an opinion and contributing to the construction of the public good?

“There will be those who say that these [oversight] functions are of the comptrollers, auditors and prosecutors. And they are partly right. But they forget that the latter [public enforcement regulators] have been designed to identify and punish mistakes, but not to get it right. Getting it right is not the job of not making mistakes, but rather of doing things well, and hopefully better and better. This is where the participation of the best minds and wills of any society make the best opportunities.

“Insinuations that the Antioquia business community takes advantage of positions in entities [such as the EPM Board of Directors] are unacceptable. If someone has complaints to make, then they have the obligation to make them. Not in opinion columns, or radio statements with generalities and statements that manage to cast a blanket of doubt about the reputation of institutions that have worked hard for the country. But [such charges should be brought] before the authorities, with evidence and making sure not to make reckless complaints.

“To affirm that the Grupo Empresarial Antioqueño and the business community have tried to appropriate EPM is not only false and manipulated, but it is also an accusation of immense gravity that merits the firm rejection of those of us who know the organization, its ethics and the principles that govern it. This strategy [of demagoguery] seems more like an attempt to get society to hand over everything of value to some political groups, rather than responsible reasoning.

“I reiterate our invitation to the Mayor to reflect on everything that can be lost at this time in Antioquia due to a situation that deserves to be redirected, taking into account the good of all, the future of society, the immense values built over the years, the possibility of community and joint work of proven suitability and with great possibilities of yielding virtuous results, putting aside any temptation of the ego, or the voices of counselors with intentions that raise many questions as well.

“This is not an issue only for Antioquia, it is a national issue. We must all defend EPM, but also defend the community of Antioquia businessmen who have done so much good for society and how necessary it is at this time in which Colombia requires activating all the instruments to generate employment, production and wealth for Colombian families.”

Written by August 05 2020 0

An investigative unit (“Sala de Instruccion”) of the Colombia Supreme Court on August 4 ordered preventive house detention against former Colombia President (now Senator) Alvaro Uribe on charges of witness tampering in a case involving Colombia’s never-ending political cannibalism.

Ironically, the alleged victim of witness tampering – left-wing Senator Iván Cepeda of the Polo Democratic Party – was himself alleged to be involved in witness tampering in a Machiavellian scheme aiming to get criminals put in prison by former President Uribe to make outrageous allegations of Uribe’s supposed involvement in paramilitary crimes decades ago.

Reacting to the Supreme Court detention order against Uribe, Senator Cepeda stated via his Twitter account: “The lesson this decision gives us is that there are no people in Colombia who are above justice and the law, however powerful and influential they are.”

Given decades-long, internecine political wars and narco-terrorist schemes that tragically have corrupted and damaged nearly every sector of Colombian society -- including the justice system – the Cepeda claim that no-one is above justice here is not only ironic but sadly risible.

Just one example: FARC leaders and thousands of its members and accomplices have won complete impunity for horrific crimes – murders, kidnappings, extorsions and narco-trafficking -- as a result of Colombia’s deeply flawed “peace” treaty. Several of these criminals now have seats in the Colombia Congress – achieved not by popular vote but rather given to them by terms of that same peace treaty.

What’s more, the same Supreme Court that just ordered Uribe’s arrest is also the Court that recently set free convicted FARC narco-terrorist Jesus Santrich, now a guest of the narco-communist Venezuelan dictatorship that has long supported FARC.

Commenting on this latest irony, former Colombia Justice Vice-Minister Rafael Nieto Loaiza stated via his Twitter account that “the same Supreme Court that released Santrich deprives Alvaro Uribe Velez of liberty. It would prove, once again, that our criminal justice is politicized. And it would show that we are a failed state that rewards bandits and persecutes those who fight them.”

Diego Cadena -- one of Uribe’s lawyers investigating jailed criminals who are trying to take revenge against Uribe by alleging Uribe involvement in paramilitary crimes – also now faces charges of witness tampering. Cadena has publicly stated that Uribe was unaware of his attempts to convince some of those criminals to retract their allegedly false accusations against Uribe -- testimony that the Supreme Court so far has ignored.

Yet another irony in the case is that both Uribe and Senator Cepeda are the sons of fathers murdered in Colombia’s horrific, decades-long wars of terror and revenge.

President Uribe’s father was murdered by the narco-communist FARC army, while Senator Cepeda’s father – a member of the FARC’s now-extinct “Union Patriotica” political wing – was murdered by unknown bandits believed to be linked to paramilitary forces.

Uribe – a long-time member of Colombia’s social-democratic Liberal Party -- was Colombia’s most-popular president in all history, with more-than-70% favorability rankings. He later became the Colombian Senator who won the most popular votes in all Senate electoral history.

According to Colombia’s Defense Ministry, during Uribe’s eight years as President (2002 to 2010), extradition of narcos to the U.S. rose 546%, murders of mayors (typically carried-out by FARC terrorists) fell 67%, murders of labor union leaders fell 84% and murders of teachers-union militants fell 78%.

Murders of journalists fell 90%, kidnappings (typically by FARC and ELN terrorists) fell 90%, mass-kidnappings fell 100%, coca plantation acreage fell 44%, cocaine seizures rose 64% and mayors forced to leave their towns by FARC terrorists fell 100%, according to the Defense Ministry.

However, along the way, Uribe gained ferocious enemies --  not only from FARC and ELN, but also from paramilitaries, narco-gangsters of every stripe, and rival politicians.

Having survived numerous assassination attempts – including a FARC mortar attack on the Presidential Palace during his first inauguration, and another FARC bomb attack against his plane coming in for an airport landing – Uribe became Colombia’s most beloved politician, by the vast majority.

But Uribe simultaneously earned hatred not only from the extreme left wing but also from political rivals, including former President Juan Manuel Santos, architect of the “peace” treaty with the FARC that Uribe denounced as a betrayal.

Uribe’s intemperate character occasionally led him to accuse rivals of being fools, political hacks, or, in some cases, fellow-travelers of those seeking to impose a Communist dictatorship in Colombia.

For example: In 2009, then-President Uribe verbally attacked a Supreme Court decision to choose an Attorney General who lacked experience in criminal law but instead seemed to be favored by political manuevering. Uribe publicly accused the Court of “historical hypocrisy of introducing politicking to the management of justice,” which provoked reprimands from leaders of rival political parties and the Court itself.

President Duque Laments Court Decision

Following release of the Supreme Court order against Uribe, current Colombian President Ivan Márquez – a member of the same Centro Democratico Party founded by Uribe – lamented the decision.

“Throughout my life I have had the honor of meeting, treating, working and building a friendship with Álvaro Uribe Vélez. I have always considered him and will consider him a genuine patriot, dedicated to serving Colombia, as evidenced in a long career of public service as director of Aerocivil, Mayor of Medellín, Senator, Governor [of Antioquia] and as President of Colombia on two occasions,” President Marquez said.

“During his two [presidential terms], our country regained security [and] Colombia put itself in the eye of investment, and progress was made in social justice. With a sense of legality, Álvaro Uribe confronted drug trafficking, terrorism and totalitarian regimes in Latin America.

“As a result of his struggle, he and his family have been victims of all kinds of attacks and defamation, all kinds of epithets, and all kinds of accusations.

“It hurts as a Colombian that many of those who have lacerated the country with barbarism [now] defend themselves in freedom or, even, are guaranteed never to go to prison, and that an exemplary public servant, who has held the highest dignity of the State, is not allowed to defend himself in freedom, with the presumption of innocence.

“As President, I call for reflection. I understand the role of institutions and the independence of powers. As a citizen and believer in the institutions, I hope that the judicial channels will operate, and that there are full guarantees so that an upright human being can fully exercise his defense in freedom,” Márquez said.

Written by July 14 2020 0

The latest EcoAnalitica-Guarumo scientific survey of 2,122 voters across Colombia gives President Ivan Duque a 60% favorability ranking during the continuing Covid-19 crisis -- a slight decline from 63% favorability in the last survey in April.

The July 8-11 survey of voters in all major and minor Colombia cities has a margin of error of 2.5%, according to the company.

Among Colombian politicians with a national image, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero has the highest favorability ranking, at 81%, while Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez has fallen to 68% favorability, down sharply from 78% in the April 2020 survey.

Left-wing demagogue Senator Gustavo Petro – who lost in a landslide to President Duque in the 2018 presidential election – now has a 61% unfavorability rating. Only 32% give the bombastic Petro a “favorable” ranking -- worse than his nemesis, former President, now-Senator Alvaro Uribe (37.6% favorable, 53% unfavorable).

Coming in last in unfavorability is former Colombia Vice President German Vargas, a defender of the deeply flawed “peace” treaty between former President Juan Manuel Santos and the narco-communist FARC army, principally responsible for starting and then continuing a war that killed more than 300,000 mostly poor people, kidnapped for ransom thousands of others, converted vast territories into cocaine areas, and forcibly displaced some 6 million during its nearly 60-year reign of terror in the Colombian countryside.

Asked about favorites for the 2022 presidential elections, the biggest single voter category was “none,” at 32%. Former Medellin Mayor and Antioquia Governor Sergio Fajardo got the most votes for any named candidate, at 22.5%, followed by Petro at 17% and former Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez at 12.6%.

As in the April survey, the July survey found that most voters continue to worry more about their jobs than about the Covid-19 threat.

In total, 34.6% of voters said “employment” was their top worry, followed by “corruption” (27.6%), “Coronavirus” (13.6%), “the economy” (9.5%), “security” (4.5%), “education” (3.6%), “health” (3%), “the environment” (1.9%) and, in last place, “peace” (1.7%).

As for what they're mainly doing for Covid-19 protection, 31.7% said they usually wear masks while 22.6% said they use social-distancing. Frequent hand-washing was reported by18.4%, while seeking tele-work (rather than commuting to a physical work-place) accounted for 13.2% of responses.

Written by April 23 2020 0

Colombia’s main trade associations for departmental governors and mayorships just endorsed what most Colombians view as President Ivan Duque’s rational, science-driven and politically reasonable handling of the Coronavirus crisis.

The National Federation of Departments (FND) and the Colombian Federation of Municipalities (FCM) on April 22 publicly endorsed President Duque’s mandatory quarantine extension through May 11 – along with a gradual, controlled restart of construction and manufacturing industries under strict health protocols.

In a joint letter, the groups praised what they termed as “successful handling that the President has given to the crisis generated by the Covid-19, protecting life and health, and preventing a pandemic of unemployment, hunger, poverty and recession from being generated,” according to FND and FCM.

Even more telling: the just-released EcoAnalytic/Guarumo poll of eligible Colombian voters (see Medellin Herald, 21 April 2020) found that 74.5% of voters endorse Duque’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis and 81.5% endorsed his mandatory quarantine policy -- while 63% of voters reject the continuing anti-Duque demagoguery of Senator Gustavo Petro, who lost to Duque in a landslide in the 2018 presidential election.

However: This EcoAnalytic/Guarumo poll also revealed that only 33.5% favor continuation of the Coronavirus quarantine beyond April 27, while 45.8% favor terminating the quarantine.

Reason: Employment is now the number-one worry, at 32.4% of Colombians polled, with the possibility of Coronavirus infection only the second-greatest worry, at 23.4%, the poll shows.

Despite growing panic over jobs and the economy, Bogota Mayor Claudia López -- who campaigned for demagogue Petro in the 2018 election -- is launching Quixotic attacks on Duque, signaling the start of her expected 2022 campaign for the Colombian presidency.

President Duque by contrast isn’t running for anything, as Colombia’s constitution only allows a single term.

The first López attack – likely aiming to shift blame for any personal responsibility for Bogota having by far the worst Coronavirus prevalence in all Colombia – came in a theatrical bloviation, blaming the Bogota airport as the principal culprit.

“Over my dead body,” López yelled to reporters over the non-existent, Quixotic idea of reopening Bogota’s airport.

Ironically, President Duque has blocked all passenger air traffic at all Colombian airports and has publicly stated he has no intention of restarting international flights.

Beyond tilting at windmills over the airport non-issue, now Mayor López is criticizing President Duque’s decision to allow strictly controlled reopenings of construction and manufacturing sectors – combined with strict limits on public passenger transport (maximum 35% of capacity, mandatory masks, mandatory distancing) along with Duque’s initiatives and mandates to expand relatively safe, Coronavirus-free bicycle transport and telecommuting alternatives.

However, even a well-controlled reopening of public transport means more passengers on Bogota’s public transport system. Hence, according to López, this inevitably means more Coronavirus cross-infections.

However, all recent economic-expert reports agree that Colombia must gradually restart its economy – under strict health controls -- or else watch its entire economy collapse, hurtling millions more into poverty, accompanied by inevitable food riots, massive street violence and a likely surge in deaths from other poverty-linked diseases.

Which begs the question: Is demanding a total shutdown of the Colombian economy -- while waiting another 12 to 18 months for a Coronavirus vaccine -- the smart way for López to start a 2022 presidential campaign?

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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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