Uribe’s dealings with rightwing paramilitaries remains an untold story, says Andy Higginbottom
- The Guardian,
- Tuesday June 3 2008
Your report on the find by Colombian security forces diverts attention from the mounting evidence of President Álvaro Uribe’s own links with rightwing paramilitary death squads (Laptop emails link Chávez to guerrillas, May 16).
The article states that Interpol "announced that a two-month forensic investigation of the laptops seized in a raid by Colombian security forces concluded they belonged to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc)".
None of the findings in Interpol’s report "conclude" any such thing, as in conclude after an investigation. The two Interpol investigators are computer experts: neither speaks Spanish, and they were tasked solely with inspecting the kit. Interpol assumes that the equipment it inspected was indeed used by Farc, it did not investigate the circumstances of their seizure, when the Colombian army killed 25 guerrillas in its raid into Ecuador on March 1. Are the Colombian security services to be trusted?
It is they who presumably sourced the article’s claim that: "Leaks from the trove of 16,000 files and photographs have suggested high-ranking Venezuelan officials plotted to help the Marxist group to obtain weapons and funding."
Your article is more remarkable for the story it did not tell, also involving computers. In the early hours of May 13 Uribe extradited 14 leaders of the paramilitary Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia from its custody to penitentiaries in the US. This manoeuvre leaves in tatters any justice component of the government’s own "justice and peace" process. Despite admitting the murder of more than 4,000 people, the "para" leaders have been extradited on drugs charges, not human rights violations, for which they may never stand trial.
In the course of this sudden extradition, top paramilitary Salvatore Mancuso’s computer and the hard drives used by four other leaders have disappeared from Itagüí maximum security prison. One drive was used by "Tuso Sierra", known to have business dealings with the former senator Mario Uribe, President Uribe’s cousin and lifelong political ally.
With no less than 96 Uribe supporters in the country’s congress being held in detention or under investigation for links with the paramilitaries, this latest manoeuvre adds to the suspicion that Uribe himself enjoys impunity at home and in the US. International press investigation of the allegations is thus vitally important, but still woefully absent.
Uribe and Chávez exemplify the two social models competing for the continent’s future: neoconservatism versus "socialism of the 21st century". The Andean region is split. Like Uribe, Peru’s Alan García is eager to strike a free trade and investment deal with the European Union, while Ecuador and Bolivia, like Venezuela, will not accept the EU’s privatisation terms.
In Lima this month I joined 8,000 participants from indigenous peoples’ groups, environmental organisations and social movements – at the "people’s summit"; we rejected the primacy of corporate interests in the relationship between our two continents. We would all appreciate a better informed reporting of these inspirational developments rather than mere snapping at Chávez.
· Dr Andy Higginbottom is a senior lecturer at Kingston University and is secretary of the Colombia Solidarity Campaign firstname.lastname@example.org