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Uribe brought criminal apparatus to presidential palace: Lawmaker

posted by Joey O'Gorman
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Five former high-ranking officials were part of the “criminal structure” of Mauricio Santoyo, ex-head of security for former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, said Representative Ivan Cepeda Wednesday.

Cepeda made the claims before the House and produced numerous documents to support his accusation that the officials were linked to the criminal activities of Santoyo, currently incarcerated in the U.S. for his collaboration with paramilitary organization AUC and allegedly involving illegal wiretapping, intimidation, kidnappings and disappearances.

According to Cepeda, Santoyo was part of a “criminal structure” of officials and subofficials operating in the police force of Antioquia in the 1990s while Uribe was governor of that department and later moved to the presidential palace when Uribe was elected president in 2002.

“Uribe brought a criminal apparatus to the work of the presidency,” said Cepeda.

“Santoyo did not act alone, he arrived with his group and circle of confidantes to the presidential palace,” said the representative.

According to Cepeda, the following officials were part of Santoyo’s criminal network.

  • Colonel Luis Alfredo Rodrigues Perez
    Former commander of the Medellin metropolitan police and former director of the Dijin, as an ally of Mauricio Santoyo. He said a letter written by Carlos Arturo Ceballos to the Prosecutor General threatened to expose Rodriguez’ connections to Santoyo’s illegal wiretapping activities. Mentioned alongside Santoyo in a letter written by criminal group “La Terraza” to then president Andres Pastrana in 2000 which according to Cepeda said “Rodriguez Perez is the most criminal and dishonest.” The letter later accuses Santoyo of being in charge of the kidnapping and disappearance of indigenous leader Jairo Bedoya and …. for whom our group did delivery of a purple volkswagon golf filled with explosive material.”
  • Major Mario Fernando Herrera Ariza
    Mauricio Santoyo’s right-hand-man and according to the representitive chief of security for the former president’s son, Tomas Uribe, who is also godfather to the major’s youngest daughter. Cepeda went on to say that Herrera’s security business is just a front for laundering activities and that Santoyo and Herrera “met in the security headquarters to arrange spying on the journalist Daniel Coronel.”
  • Colonel Jorge Vargas Peña
    Allegedly appointed by Santoyo as the main link between him and the paramilitaries. Vargas was head of security in the special zone created for negotiations with the paramilitaries during Uribe’s presidency, and according to the testimony of drug-trafficker Juan Carlos “El Tuso” Sierra who was hiding in the area with a reward on his head: “Vargas knew who I was and  I brought him money.”
  • General Julio Cesar Santoyo
    Brother of the jailed general who according to El Tuso “carried out the wishes of ‘El Aleman’,” one of the AUC’s commanders. Cepeda also claimed that before he was assasinated, Lt Nestor Eduardo Porras said that General Julio Santoyo was on the payroll of the Cali Cartel.
  • General Flavio Buitrago Delgadillo
    Former commander of the Antioquia police and the successor of Mauricio Santoyo as head of security of the president. A column by Colombia’s former intelligence chief Ramiro Bejerano said that Buitrago instructed him to say that current Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro presented false witness in his testimony on parapolitics.

During the debate Cepeda insisted that Uribe should take political responsibility for his chief of security for collaborating in the wiretapping that took place when he was director of the anti-kidnapping unit of the Medellin police department. He also later backed up the demand on his Twitter account: “Santoyo is the political responsibility of ex-president Alvaro Uribe.”

These claims come only two weeks after the National Police ordered an investigation into all of Antioquia’s former commanders since 1995, when Uribe took office as the department’s governor.

An investigation was also ordered into the actions of police commanders during the demobilization talks with the AUC paramilitary organization following reports that Mauricio Santoyo’s brother made suspicious visits to paramilitary camps.

During the debate Cepeda accused Mauricio Santoyo and the officials of collaborating with paramilitaries from the presidential residence and holding clandestine meetings as well as scheming against the opposition.

“They were commanders of the police in Medellin and Antioquia and after they finished work they were in the presidential residence where they worked with Santoyo, whose relationship with Uribe is personal, friendly and went beyond the professional,” said Cepeda.

United States authorities are interrogating Uribe’s former security chief after he admitted he was on the AUC’s payroll. Several local media have reported that more (former) top officials may be charged by U.S. prosecutors over their links to the paramilitary group held responsible for the death of tens of thousands of Colombians.

Cepeda has long accused Uribe of having been an ally of the AUC, something that the former president always strongly denied.

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Joey O' Gorman is from Ireland, she graduated from the Dublin Institute of Technology with a masters in journalism.

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