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News > Latin America

Colombia: Testimony Links Uribe Family to Paramilitary Group

  • Alvaro Uribe after voting in the first round of presidential elections, on May 27.

    Alvaro Uribe after voting in the first round of presidential elections, on May 27. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 June 2018

Three former workers of the Uribe-owned La Carolina ranch testified that it served as the "base of operations" for a paramilitary group "Los 12 Apostoles."

Three former employees of the cattle ranch “La Carolina,” owned in the 1990s by the family of Colombia’s former president Alvaro Uribe, told a state prosecutor that the estate was used as the “base of operations” for the paramilitary group known as "Los 12 Apostoles" or "the 12 Apostles" in a case against Santiago Uribe, the alleged founder of the group.

Colombia's Elections: Let's Talk About Paramilitarism

"Los 12 Apostoles" have been charged with threatening and harassing civilian populations, murder and cooperation with the state’s armed forces. Human rights groups have recorded at least 500 victims related to the groups’ “social cleansing” campaigns, in which they executed anyone they believed were criminals or guerrilla sympathizers.

Santiago, Alvaro Uribe’s brother, has been under investigations for at least 20 years and was recently released from prison after serving two years.

According to the investigators, Santiago and Jose Alberto Osorio, alias “El Mono de los Llanos” or “Rodrigo,” allegedly founded the paramilitary group. Uribe has denied having any relations with El Mono, but recordings of his employees obtained by the Spanish newspaper El Pais contradict his statement.  

One of the witnesses said Santiago and El Mono “were very close,” and had “very friendly” relations. The same witness claimed “Rodrigo always arrived before Mr. Santiago. Then they left together by horse.” The witnesses affirmed that the two met regularly in a house within the estate known as “La Mayoria.”

“The rumors were that they worked with the police and the military… Well, yes, there they were with the army, that they supported there,” one witness told the prosecutor. Another witness mentions weekly encounters with members of the police.      

Santiago Uribe’s defense has argued that the witness presented by the plaintiffs, the NGO Justice and Peace Commission, and the prosecution are false witnesses or have received money for their testimony. He has also “turned it into a political battle against his brother, former president Alvaro Uribe, who was a senator (1986-1994) and governor of the department of Antioquia (1995-1997) when the acts transpired.”

Today, Alvaro Uribe is a senator who received the most amount of votes in the March legislative elections. He is also backing presidential candidate Ivan Duque, who will face off against progressive candidate Gustavo Petro on Sunday.

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