Colombia: Uribe – Supreme Court puts “the chainsaw man” under house arrest

On 4 August, the Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia was filled with hope for the thousands of families awaiting justice for the crimes for which the former president and, until recently, senator Álvaro Uribe has been indicted. The court issued a sentence of house arrest based on the charges of possible witness tampering, procedural fraud and bribery. Those would be the least-serious crimes Uribe has committed.

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The court omits other crimes of greater importance in the sentence, such as support for the organisation and financing of anti-subversive groups (paramilitaries), drug trafficking and violation of human rights.

The former senator (now described as prisoner #1087985) denied the accusations and affirms that the causes of his arrest lie in having confronted testimonies against him “bought by the FARC, its new generation and its allies.” He also points out that there is no evidence against him, only inferences that have been illegally intercepted and, at the same time, he calls for transparency in the legal process.

Despite the control exercised by Uribismo as a wing of the Colombian ruling class in the media, this report by CARACOL, entitled “Interceptions of Álvaro Uribe: this is the audio that the Supreme Court is investigating", indicates that there are more than 27,000 audio files that have been reviewed for this judicial hearing in the investigation against Uribe.

In one of the files that would compromise Uribe, he communicates with the rancher Juan Guillermo Villegas. The call was intercepted due to an investigation process that was being carried out against Villegas at that time. In one of these audios, the rancher urges Uribe to speak out against public complaints against him.

Additionally, there are calls in which Juan Guillermo Villegas himself maintains telephone contact with a certain Humberto. According to the Supreme Court of Colombia, this turned out to actually be Humberto Gómez, a mysterious figure who was visiting several prisons throughout the country. The investigators came to enquire whether those visits sought help (in the form of false witnesses) in favour of the investigation carried out against Uribe.

Another of the important audio files was a conversation between Uribe and the former mayor of Amagá, in the department of Antioquia, Wilser Molina, about following up with witnesses to testify in favour of Uribe and against Senator Iván Cepeda.


uribe preso 900x485 1While Uribe has been indicted, it is for the least of his crimes / Image: fair use

At the end of 2014, Álvaro Uribe, in his capacity as senator, went to the Supreme Court to file complaints against fellow senator Iván Cepeda for the alleged search for false witnesses. For his part, Cepeda had previously accused him in Congress of having direct links with paramilitary groups and drug traffickers.

Congressman Iván Cepeda has been fighting for years to demonstrate Uribe's ties to drug traffickers and paramilitary groups. In that same year of 2014, during a session of the parliament televised throughout the country, Cepeda presented a chronological body of videos, audios, and documents which he considered as reliable evidence of the relationships established by Uribe with people linked to drug trafficking and paramilitarism, throughout his entire political career.

Four years later, the court dismissed the charges against Cepeda, and opened an investigation against the former president for crimes of bribery and procedural fraud, specifically witness tampering, which has opened the doors to the events of recent weeks.

Executioner begging for mercy

Through his personal account on the social network Twitter, on 4 August, the “untouchable” and “almighty” former President Uribe, appealing for pity, said, “the deprivation of my freedom causes me deep sadness for my wife, for my family and for the Colombians who still believe that I have done something good for the homeland.” Of course, the supportive and opposing reactions were immediate.

However, not 24 hours had passed since the sentence against Uribe was handed down, when it was conveniently announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19, and that he would spend time recovering at his farm “El Ubérrimo", a modest property of 1,500 hectares.

Once he overcame the coronavirus, the very astute former president submitted his resignation to the Senate of the Republic, seeking to have his case go to the ordinary courts, at the jurisdiction of the Attorney General's Office: an institution that Francisco Barbosa (an ally of now-former senator and personal friend of President Duque) is in charge of.

There was also an attempt from the Democratic Centre to call the masses to the streets, as it had already tried in previous periods. However, they crashed into reality: the country is in one of its worst moments, with a pandemic plaguing public health and exacerbating economic anguish. The government, subservient to Uribe, is showing itself as inept, indolent and incapable.

In short, there are more important things to worry about. In fact, the dirty tricks have been seen as a symbol of weakness by the majority of the population, who have been endlessly making fun of the situation. Proof of this are the official polls that indicate a decrease in Uribe’s popularity by 50 percent. In fact, 65 percent said they agreed with the arrest.

Who is Uribe Vélez?

GWB: Ceremony for 2009 Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.Uribe has been a favoured ally of big business and US imperialism for years, happily doing their dirty work / Image: White House

Uribe, as a corrupt politician, criminal and murderer of workers, peasants, and social activists throughout the country, has historically been an effective instrument for the fulfilment of the interests of US imperialism in Colombia.

This sinister character has had the internal support of big finance and its allies in drug trafficking, and for the exploitation of the workers and peasants of Colombia by the big US imperialist capitals, which in turn have played a fundamental role in his narco-paramilitary project.

Even though Uribe is not a military man, and his government was not behaving like a dictatorship like those seen in South America within the framework of the Condor plan, the methods that Uribe has historically used against the workers and the left have been similar to the methods of fascism. Above all, the organisation of armed gangs stands out, formed from the declassed sectors of the proletariat and the poor peasantry, to exterminate the left and thousands of social activists throughout the country.

Although he has not been charged with more serious offences, currently the Colombian justice system, through the Supreme Court and the Commission of Investigation and Accusation of the House of Representatives, has about 60 open investigations against the former president. Among such investigations, the links with paramilitarism, drug trafficking, and the violation of human rights are prominent.

Similarly, at this time Uribe is being investigated by the Criminal Chamber of the Superior Court of Medellín, which in 2018 opened a lawsuit against him, in which he is connected to the La Granja massacre.

Furthermore, in 2015 the Justice and Peace Court of Medellín requested that Uribe be investigated for his participation in the El Aro massacre, which occurred in the Antioquia province in 1997, when he was the governor.

Likewise, during his tenure as President of Colombia, thousands of extrajudicial executions of civilians presented as guerrillas were carried out, which the army passed off as combat casualties, under the direction of Juan Manuel Santos as Minister of Defence.

According to a report handled by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), there could be more than 10,000 Colombian victims in these events. However, for these crimes against humanity, to date just over 20 soldiers have been convicted throughout the country, with sentences ranging from 37 to 52 years in prison.

In addition to this, foreign press reports show that, after Duque took office, the military high command, headed by General Nicasio Martínez, gave instructions suggesting a call to resume this practice.

Circle of criminals

Further evidence of Uribe's responsibility for the crimes committed consists of the convictions that have already been levelled against his closest circle of collaborators, including his relatives.

Many of the officials who held important positions within his government, such as Andrés Arias (one of his closest men and who is nicknamed “Uribito"), were convicted of giving subsidies in the millions to landowners.

General Mauricio Santoyo, Álvaro Uribe's former head of security as president, was sentenced to 13 years in prison in the United States for encouraging drug trafficking by paramilitaries. Once that sentence was served, he was captured in Colombia for the disappearance of human rights defenders. Another former Uribe security chief also convicted is General Flavio Buitrago, accused of embezzlement.

For his part, Uribe's former minister Diego Palacios was accused based on his direct participation in the 'yidispótica', that famous scandal about the large sums of money that were paid to several senators, in order to vote in favour of the Uribe's reelection.

Similarly, Mario Uribe, Álvaro Uribe's cousin, who was Álvaro's foil while he was in Congress as a senator, was condemned for his ties to paramilitarism. It is also presumed that Mario Uribe was in charge of doing the “dirty work” for the bourgeois politicians. Currently his brother Santiago Uribe is being investigated for founding the 12 Apostles paramilitary group in the Antioquia region.

Uribe condemned, but the ruling class is still killing working people

In the last few weeks, nine young people were massacred in Samaniego, five in Cali and two in Cauca and Nariño. Furthemore, a young man was mutilated due to his gender identity, two indigenous people were slaughtered in Corinto, five in the Arauca massacre, and three young people in the massacre of Norte de Santander.

These events are in addition to the more than 200 social leaders killed so far this year, and the 200 former FARC members that had reintegrated into society. While all this is happening, Uribe and his puppet in the House of Nariño, Iván Duque, worry about the liberation of Venezuela from the supposed dictatorial regime that today governs in that country.

Faced with the latest known killings, the UN team in Colombia issued a statement on 17 August, in which it expresses its strong condemnation of the massacres, stating that they have documented 33 so far this year.

They also called on the relevant authorities to take all necessary actions to eradicate violence and to spare no effort in investigations and prosecutions of those who violate safety guarantees in poor communities in the country.

These calls against violence, by themselves, and also coming from an international organisation related to the historical interests of imperialist capitalism, such as the UN, are little more than pretty words. However, they do reveal the magnitude of the violent repression that the ruling classes and the state mercilessly exercise against working people.

Indeed, despite the arrest of the ‘chainsaw man’ (Uribe’s nickname, after how his paramilitary allies would deal with their victims), the murders, persecution, and terror against the working masses have not ceased, as we have seen. The problem of violence in Colombia goes beyond Uribe and his friends.

Violence and terror are instruments that the ruling class has historically used against those who generate the country's wealth, by selling their labour power, in order to extract every last drop of surplus value from them.

Therefore, the real and definitive overcoming of violence in Colombia will only be possible when we overthrow the capitalist system, which only offers death and destruction to those on whose sweat it subsists.

Uribe's sentence and the fundamental contradictions of Colombian society

As with all social phenomena and events in history, the case of Uribe's prosecution is also a reflection of deeper political, social and economic contradictions within Colombian society.

Furthermore, there is the question of the existence of contradictions between the interests of different sectors of the Colombian landowning bourgeoisie itself. The same bourgeoisie that for more than 40 years has been strengthening its links with drug trafficking.

Additionally, we must point out that a part of the landowning bourgeoisie has strong interests in finance capital. For example, the Santos family has interests in both fields, apart from having a historical influence in the media.

The historical crisis of backward Colombian capitalism, exacerbated by the current decline of capitalism as a world economic system, has in recent years pushed a sector of Uribismo to change sides. This sector had originally participated in the process of dispossession of land from peasant communities, and had supported the disastrous policy of democratic security, to later break with its original orientation, and support the peace negotiation process with the FARC. It is necessary to point out that this sector was a minority, and also, as has happened historically, the peace agreements were not fulfilled on their part.

Behind this about-face, are the petty interests of these bloodthirsty businessmen, to promote a policy of legitimising their property on the lands that they violently uprooted from the hands of the peasantry, in order to promote national and foreign investment in these productive lands. Specifically, they sought the title reallocation of approximately three million hectares, out of the 10 million hectares stripped from peasants.

The contradiction between these tendencies of the Colombian bourgeoisie would later express itself even in the political and institutional sphere. For example, let us remember how the so-called High Courts were spied on by the Uribe government itself at the time, and, as we have already pointed out, how they have later responded, prosecuting a series of representatives close to the former senator.

A good part of the Colombian Left took this fact as evidence to believe in the rule of law. It is our duty to point out that this is absurd. As we noted at the beginning of this article, Uribe is being tried for what is perhaps the least of his crimes. Of all his misdeeds, he is only being investigated for a few. The bourgeois state does not really work, nor does it guarantee justice for the poor.

On the other hand, there is the question of the growing pressure of the working masses, who have been showing clear symptoms of a growing social unrest, in the face of a system that only offers suffering and death to the majority, in exchange for the enrichment of a few families.

We cannot lose sight of the protests by students and workers towards the end of last year. Although at the moment they have decreased as a result of the political and social situation caused by the pandemic and the quarantine measures, they could be revived at any time, even in the framework of the quarantine. The reason for this lies in the increasingly unbearable conditions of existence that the poor and working people of Colombia have to face each passing day.

In fact, despite the pandemic, mobilisations have been advanced. Social discontent in Colombia has not diminished and Duque's popularity is at its worst.

To this is added the fact of how the government has managed the pandemic situation, exacerbating the crisis in the health system, and deepening the impact on the most impoverished sectors of society.

A glimpse of what is to come can be seen in the recent silent protest with red rags hanging from the windows of thousands of working-class family homes, in the face of growing exasperation at not being able to count on the resources to sustain themselves.

Therefore, within this political and social context, the judicial measures against Uribe, which have obviously passed through the hands of the bourgeois state apparatus, could also be considered as an escape valve to dissipate the discontent and social pressure of the masses. Social unrest could break out at any moment, endangering the very stability of the entire capitalist system in the country.

The International Marxist Tendency adds its voice to demands for justice for the thousands of Colombian families and the MAFAPOCOLOMBIA (Mothers of those Unlawfully Killed in Colombia), in the face of the horrific deaths to which their children were subjected.

Likewise, we support the struggle of the peasants displaced from their lands, of the students in the streets who have demanded a free and inclusive education, and we condemn the interference of the US government in the judicial process that is being carried out against Uribe.

We also point out that the struggle for fundamental democratic reforms, and for the conquest of basic political and civil rights for workers, ultimately necessitates a struggle to abolish the capitalist system, based on private property of the means of production and the bourgeois state apparatus.

Under this social regime of inequality, imposed by force of blood and fire, it is impossible to achieve democratic rights in a genuine and definitive way, as well as a lasting peace for all the working and oppressed peoples of Colombia.

The harsh historical reality of this country should make it clear to us that only socialism can guarantee justice. Colombia truly would not have the means to support a reformist regime. The alternative to Duque-Uribe is the dictatorship of the proletariat. There is no other viable option.