Uribe's wiretap investigation becomes saddest joke of the decade

Following three withdrawals, the congressional commission investigating former President Alvaro Uribe's alleged responsibility in the illegal wiretapping of government opponents now consists of three representatives who could be in the race for dirtiest politician in Colombia's political spectrum.

The commission never had all that much credibility. Even in its original form the members all consisted of pro-Uribe representatives to the House, which does not generate a lot of confidence with a skeptic such as myself.

Nevertheless, Congress proved able to make things even worse. One of the original members of the commission resigned because of his personal friendship with the former President, a second one withdrew after Uribe accused him of bias, and a third one withdrew after he intimidatingly was given the message "not to mess with Uribe."

So now, six months after the investigation was opened, no witness or accusation has been heard. Both Prosecutor General Viviane Morales and the Supreme Court were forced to urge the congressmen to make some sort of progess. In addition, the commission, as it stands, is more suspicious of improper conduct than the defendant himself.

All three members of the investigation commission are newcomers to Congress and are all tied to the parapolitics scandal that sent dozens of politicians to jail.

When taking into account that many of the wiretaps for which Uribe is investigated are related to parapolitics, it makes one wonder to what extent these politicians are going to make an effort to dig for the truth.

The coordinator of the commission is Heriberto Escobar. Escobar is a Cali-born politician from the school of Juan Carlos Abadia -- the former Valle del Cauca governor who was dismissed for illegally promoting Uribe prodigy and Colombia's alleged king of corruption Andres Felipe Arias to become the Conservative Party's presidential candidate in the 2010 elections.

Escobar belongs to the PIN, an explicitly pro-Uribe party that is highly controversial because of its close ties to politicians now in jail for having received support from drug cartels and paramilitary organization AUC. Despite the obvious ties to dirty politicians, the PIN became the second biggest party in Escobar's home department Valle del Cauca in the 2010 congressional elections.

The second member of the commission is Jose Rodolfo Perez. Perez is the brother of former Casanare governor Miguel Angel Perez -- who was sentenced to six years in jail for being sponsored by paramilitary organization AUC during his 2003 governor campaign.

Perez is a member of Apertura Liberal, another highly controversial party because of its explicit ties to DMG -- a money-laundering ponzi scheme that defrauded hundreds of thousands of poor Colombians, but was able to get two seats in Colombia's House of Representatives.

The latest member of the commission, Yahir Acuña, is probably the most controversial of all.

Before the 2010 Congressional elections, Acuña was a member of the Apertura Liberal (of Perez) and later the PIN (of Escobar). The PIN suspiciously received a staggering 42.7% of the votes in Acuña's home department Sucre (against 8.8% nationally) in the 2010 Congressional elections.

However, Acuña left the PIN just before the elections and switched to Afrovides -- the party for the Afro-Colombian minority with a guaranteed seat in Congress. Acuña was granted the Afrocolombian seat through 45,000 preferential votes, all from Sucre.

Acuña volunteered to join the investigative team unintimidated by the threats delivered to his predecessor and unhindered by a preliminary criminal investigation against him for alleged paramilitary ties.

The Accusations Commission of Congress accepted his offer, putting the icing on the lack-of-credibility cake.

The Colombian Congress website does not allow me to see which congressmen are part of the different commissions. I know there are 15 members, six of them are or have been in the investigative commission, leaving nine of which some probably are impeded because of personal interests or involvement and others who would be impeded by the interests of others.

In the meantime, we are looking at an apparently sad excuse for an investigation into what could be the Watergate of Colombia.

Acuña asked the ICC to monitor the case to guarantee transparency. I hope it does, because so far the investigation against Uribe has become a sad and cynical joke.

[Source: Por Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, Bogotá, 05Jun11]

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