On Monday, October 8, President Álvaro Uribe Vélez appeared on national television claiming that he was being accused of ordering the murder of a paramilitary warlord known as René. According to Reuters,
The court, which is probing dozens of Uribe's political allies on charges they supported paramilitary death squads, accuses the president of obstructing those investigations while Uribe says it is plotting against him. In several radio interviews, Uribe said on Tuesday the court offered benefits including a reduced sentence to jailed paramilitary chief Jose Moncada in exchange for testifying that the president ordered the killing of another militia boss in 2003. He made the charge in private questioning last week and news of his testimony has just begun circulating.
“The country needs to know if the president is an assassin or if the lawyer and Mr. alias Tasmania are liars. All we Colombians can be investigated, starting from the president, but it is necessary that the means be legal and decent,” Uribe told a press conference. […] Velazquez has received the unanimous support of the supreme court's 23 judges through a communique.Uribe said, “I believe that it is bad to obtain a deceitful confession through torture or through gifts.” High peace commissioner, Luis Carlos Restrepo, said in 2004 that “Rene” confessed to him that he feared to be a victim of assassination attempts ordered by Uribe or by the government forces, and that is why he had refused to leave the concentration region.
On Sunday, it was learnt that the letter from the paramilitary chief Moncada, alias Tasmania (or perhaps Taz-Mania, since the animated television show is better known in Colombia than the Australian island), was delivered to the president by his older brother Santiago Uribe, according to national newspaper El Tiempo [ES]. As usual, this incident sparked outrage in the Colombian blogosphere and a huge controversy between president Uribe's supporters and those ones who side with the Supreme Court, especially when justice Iván Velásquez, the one accused by the president, “carries [ES] the burden of investigations of over 30 politicians for their links with former chiefs of the Self-United Forces of Colombia (AUC)”, most of them from the ruling coalition, including Mr. Uribe's own cousin, senator Mario Uribe Escobar.
Carlos Cuentero [ES] writes at El desván:
Gritos e insultos a la Corte Suprema de Justicia… ¿dictadura democrática?
Shouts and insults to the Supreme Court of Justice… a democratic dictatorship?
On the blog Atrabilioso [ES], journalist Miguel Yances makes a summary of the case and attacks some of the Colombian media:
Lo extraño de este suceso es que la opinión especializada que difunden los medios masivos, de forma casi generalizada se dedicó a descalificar, no a Tasmania ni al magistrado, sino al presidente; mientras que en la Urna Virtual de Caracol, más del 70% de quienes participaron, estuvieron de acuerdo con el proceder presidencial. ¿Por qué algunos políticos, periodistas y medios masivos -me consta que El Universal no- le cargan tanta bronca al presidente? ¿Solo por qué es buen negocio; o por venganza? La venganza la sanciona la opinión pública, y el dinero es bueno y necesario, pero hay que medir bien las formas que se usan para conseguirlo.
The strange thing about this event is that the specialized opinion spread by the mass media, in a generalized way, spent their time to discredit not Tasmania or the justice [Velásquez] but the president, whereas a virtual poll in Caracol TV shows that more than 70% of the participants agreed with the president's actions.
Why do some politicians, journalists and mass media -I can say El Universal [the daily Yances works for] have so much anger towards the president? Just because it's good for business or for revenge? Revenge is sanctioned by the public opinion, and the money is good and necessary, but the ways used to get it should be measured.
Valentina Díaz from Realidades Colombianas [ES] says:
¿Qué interés oculto tiene el presidente para seguir en la misma tónica echarle leña a la fogata contra el poder judicial y presionar para orientar las investigaciones de la Fiscalía? ¿Por qué el Comisionado de Paz asegura que “alias ‘René’ no se desmovilizaba porque tenía miedo que el presidente y su amigo Ernesto Garcés lo mataran”? Por eso y mucho más hay quienes creen que estamos al borde del desplome institucional.
What hidden interest has the president to continue in the same attitude of adding fuel to the fire against the judiciary and putting pressure in order to guide the Attorney General office's investigations? Why does the Peace Commissioner claim that alias René wasn't going to demobilize because he was afraid the president and his friend Ernesto Garcés were going to kill him? Because of that and a lot more thare are some who believe we're on the brink of an institutional collapse.
At equinoXio [ES], Carlos Uribe slams the way this incident broke into the media with such intensity:
Es necesario concluir también en que alguien –persona o grupo– desconocido aún, ha sido el promotor de todo este lamentable enredo para quizás poner el debate nacional en otra parte y desviar la atención de todo el mundo, incluidos por supuesto los medios de comunicación que corren desbocados y sin criterio detrás del escándalo.Persiste, finalmente, la confirmación de que la Corte Suprema de Justicia –como le ha tocado otras veces a la Corte Constitucional– anda enfrentada a la Presidencia, porque aquí hay que incluir a todos los turiferarios. Y que el Presidente de la República no pierde oportunidad para revolver la opinión, para hacer uso y abuso de los medios de comunicación, más allá de la mesura deseable, y que sobre todo, le encanta el poder concentrado en una sola figura, la suya, que ahora comienza a ser promovida como candidata a un tercer periodo presidencial. Que Dios nos ayude, si es que ya no ha firmado un acuerdo con nuestro piadoso soberano.
It's necessary to conclude, too, that someone -a person or a group- yet unknown has promoted this regrettable mess in order to perhaps put it into the national debate elsewhere and divert everyone's attention, including of course the mainstream media which run unstoppable and without any criteria behind the scandal. It persists, finally, the confirmation that the Supreme Court of Justice -as in other times has been the Constitutional Court- is confronted with the Presidency, because here we must include all the sycophants. And that the President of the Republic misses no chance to agitate the opinion to use and abuse the mass media, beyond the desirable restraint, and that above all, he loves the power concentrated in one person, his own, which is now being promoted as a candidate for a third presidential term. God help us, if there's already no signed pact with our devout sovereign.