Ex-paramilitary and founder of the Urabeños, alias "Don Mario," has linked former President Álvaro Uribe to paramilitary activity, but the current senator claims the accusations are simply a strategy to discredit his critique of Colombia's peace process.
During testimony granted in 2014 and 2015 to the Colombian Attorney General’s office, Daniel Rendón Herrera, alias “Don Mario,” accused former president and current Senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez of ordering the murder of Pedro Juan Moreno, Uribe's secretary general while he was governor of the Colombian department of Antioquia, and of Vicente Castaño, the founder of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), reports El Espectador.
In his testimony, Don Mario cited a meeting in rural Antioquia, during which Vicente Castaño insinuated that Moreno had not died in an accidental helicopter crash, but instead that, "Álvaro Uribe was the one that had gotten rid of the problem he had with Juan Pablo Moreno.”
According to Don Mario, Uribe was also involved in planning the assassination of Vicente Castaño, after Castaño was viewed as an obstacle during the demobilization of paramilitary groups in 2007. Don Mario testified that Uribe asked a major player of criminal group the Oficina de Envigado -- the heirs to Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel -- to kill Vicente Castaño.
Uribe’s lawyer Jaime Granados Peña responded to the allegations, stating that the testimony was part of a smear campaign against Uribe because of his critiques of the government’s peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
InSight Crime Analysis
Don Mario’s testimony has not always been reliable. When he was arrested in 2009, he was tried under Colombia's Justice and Peace Law, which allows certain benefits for demobilized paramilitaries in exchange for confessing their crimes. At the time, Don Mario argued that he was eligible for the Justice and Peace process as he was no longer involved in criminal activity. However, in 2013 he was excluded from the process, when evidence surfaced that he remained a key player in the Urabeños drug trafficking organization.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Colombia
Notably, in December 2014 President Juan Manuel Santos signed an extradition order for Don Mario to be tried in the United States. It is possible that Don Mario’s testimony is an attempt to delay or avoid extradition to the United States, by proving his value to Colombian investigators.
That being said, this is certainly not the first allegation of Uribe’s ties with paramilitary and drug trafficking organizations. Some of the former president's closest allies have been convicted of colluding with paramilitary and drug trafficking organizations and abuses of power.
Even with allegations mounting, Uribe maintains significant political power, and has been able to deflect accusations such as Don Mario’s in the past. There is no indication that this case will be any different.