President Juan Manuel Santos on Friday accused his predecessor Alvaro Uribe of having been “very good friends” with paramilitaries active in Colombiay between the 1980s until during Uribe’s first term as president (2002-2006).
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The president made the comment in a radio interview two days before the elections that according to past polls are likely to see Santos enter a second round run-off with Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who’s been campaigning with Uribe.
Preceding Santos’ latest accusation, analysts had already called the current election the “dirtiest” in recent history over ongoing verbal and legal attacks between Santos, and Uribe and his loyalists.
From friends to foes
Santos used to be defense minister under Uribe, but has increasingly fallen out with his former superior after his first election in 2010 when he appointed a number of Uribe’s political enemies into his cabinet.
Since then, Uribe and his supporters have criticized Santos, particularly after Santos began peace talks with the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC.
‘I wouldn’t be his puppet’
In the interview with national radio station Caracol, Santos claimed that the increased opposition of Uribe to his policies was because “I wouldn’t be his puppet, or follow his dictates and orders.”
According to Santos, he never betrayed Uribe as claimed by the former president and his followers. “No, I betrayed the corruption, the cronyism with the paramilitaries and the wiretaps” carried out by the since-defunct intelligence agency DAS while reporting to Uribe.
FACT SHEET: DAS wiretap scandal
Uribe ‘very good friends with the paramilitaries’
While “Uribistas” have denounced Santos for his attempts to negotiate peace with the FARC, the president took his most direct approach ever and accused of Uribe of having been “very good friends with the paramilitaries.”
Until two days before his election, the president refused to support ongoing accusations about Uribe and his proximity with the AUC, a paramilitary umbrella organization formed in 1997 to counter rebel groups like the FARC, but have since committed tens of thousands of human rights violations.
Dozens of top government officials and congressmen elected in the 2002 and 2006 elections have since been sentenced for ties to the AUC and its member groups.
FACT SHEET: Parapolitics
Prosecutors have been investigating Uribe’s involvement in the foundation of one of the AUC’s paramilitary groups when he was governor of the Antioquia state. The investigation was opened after criminal charges were filed by socialist opposition and vociferous Uribe critic Congressmen Ivan Cepeda.
A few weeks ago, Cepeda left Santos “surprised enough, because there are specific accusations that show even closer ties,” the president said.
Santos announces ‘legal actions’ against Uribe
Santos even announced legal action against his predecessor over recent accusations made by Uribe that the president received $2 million in funneled drug money to compensate losses made in his 2010 campaign.
Uribe’s attorney has since admitted Uribe does not have evidence to support the accusations.
“This can not continue hanging in the air. This accusation can not remain unpunished,” said Santos.
“It can not be that a person who was president of the Republic, purely for political purposes makes such an … accusation and then doesn’t surrender evidence, said Santos.
- “Uribe ha sido muy amigo de los paramilitares”: Santos (Caracol Radio)
- Santos confirma que denunciará penalmente al expresidente Uribe (Caracol Radio)
- Audio of interview (Caracol Radio)
- Santos acusa a Uribe de haber sido “muy amigo de los paramilitares” (Minuto 30)
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