By Patrick Vanderpool
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
BOGOTA, Colombia – According to a retired Colombian police major, President Alvaro Uribe’s younger brother, Santiago Uribe, commanded a death squad in the early 1990s that killed nearly fifty people, including petty thieves, suspected guerillas, and their sympathizers. Santiago Uribe allegedly led the right-wing group from the Uribe family’s cattle ranch in the Antioquia state municipality.
Although there is little evidence to support the allegations, the ex-officer, Major Juan Carlos Meneses, stated that Santiago Uribe claimed that Alvaro Uribe, a senator at the time, was aware of the illegal militia. When recently asked about his knowledge of the death squad after the report was first published in the Washington Post, Alvaro Uribe’s stated “I don’t read international newspapers.”
These accusations are coming shortly before the highly contested May 30 presidential election involving Alvaro Uribe’s former defense minister, Juan Carlos Santos. Alvaro Uribe’s interior minister, Fabio Valencia, has suggested that Meneses’ comments are politically motivated to discredit Santos’ candidacy; a claim which Meneses denies.
Meneses claims that he attended meetings with Santiago Uribe where the group would decide who would be killed. Additionally, Meneses claimed that Santiago Uribe paid him approximately $700 monthly for a four month period so that Meneses would allow the death squad to operate in the area where Meneses was the top law enforcement officer. Meneses claims to have personally witnessed at least fifteen men armed with semi-automatic firearms participating in obstacle course training on the Uribe family ranch.
Alvaro Uribe was elected Colombia’s President in 2002 and has since been given significant financial assistance from the U.S. to defeat leftist rebels in the country. While president, Alvaro Uribe has been criticized by international humanitarian groups for suspected human rights violations. These violations include Colombian soldiers allegedly murdering more than 1,000 citizens under the guise that they were rebels.
Colombian law enforcement officials have investigated the death squad claims on at least two occasions and have not discovered enough evidence to prosecute Alvaro Uribe; however, Meneses’ claims may be enough to reopen the case. Meneses claims that he and his family have been forced to leave Colombia and seek asylum in Venezuela after receiving written and telephoned death threats because of the accusations against Santiago and Alvaro Uribe.
Santiago Uribe has been unavailable for comment; however, he denied the allegations in a previous interview with the Washington Post.
For more information, please see:
CBS News – Ex-cop Claims Uribe’s Brother Led Death Squad – 24 May 2010
Time –Ex-cop: Alvaro Uribe’s Brother Led Death Squad–24 May 2010
Colombia Reports – Uribe’s brother led paramilitary death squad – 23 May 2010