United States officials were well aware that Colombia’s former president Alvaro Uribe Velez campaigned in 1993 using donations from drug cartels, according to a series of recently declassified files published by the U.S. National Security Archive Friday.
Ten year’s worth of correspondence were exchanged between various politicians and officials accusing Uribe of maintaining ties to the drug cartels of Colombia. The new information casts a shade of doubt on the nation’s upcoming elections and the former president’s hand-picked candidate and front-runner, Iván Duque.
During a meeting with the United States Embassy Political Officer in February 1993, Colombian Senator Luis Guillermo Vélez Trujillo warned that Uribe’s campaign had been financed by his cousins and founders of Medellin’s drug cartel: the Ochoa Vasquez family.
Velez continued, saying it explained the rendezvous between Uribe and the wife of cartel kingpin-turned fugitive Pablo Escobar in December 1992. The family demanded Uribe return the favor of financial support by opening communication with the president, Cesar Gaviria.
“Another Liberal Party politician told the reporting officer that Uribe is [related] to the Ochoa Vazquez [sic] family, some of whose members are currently serving time on narcotics convictions, that Uribe received campaign contributions from them, and that he feared for his life for not having “delivered,” the report wrote after the meeting with Trujillo.
However, these allegations weren’t news to U.S. intelligence. A military report from 1991 labeled Uribe, together with Escobar, as one of the country’s top narco-trafficking figures. The report, which was released by the National Security Archive in 2004, referred to the senator as a “close personal friend of Pablo Escobar” who was “dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin Cartel at high government levels.”
He was ultimately removed from the list, however, due to lack of sufficient, legitimate fault.
“If, as we suspect, Uribe’s only transgression is to belong to a family that has done legitimate business with narcos, his inclusion in this list is not warranted,” the U.S. Embassy wrote.
As Uribe continued to climb the ladder of political success, he proceeded to forge strong ties with the U.S., eradicate numerous drug trafficking suspects, cutting the number of guerrilla groups in half, and securing billions of dollars in federal aid.
However, the wealth of investigations against the politician linking him to drug trafficking around the country continued to pile up. In March 1995 a note from the U.S. Embassy and signed by U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Myles Frechette, summarized the dozens of allegations against Uribe, now the governor of Antioquia.
Michael L. Evans, a senior analyst with the National Security Archive told the New York Times, “In these cables we learn more about the allegations that most worried the Embassy: the aviation licenses for cartel figures; his financial ties to the Ochoa clan; and above all the possibility that he might be indebted to them.
U.S officials continued to investigate the politician, gathering information and interviewing various suspects, but refraining from any action due to lack of proof.
Uribe assumed the presidency from 2002 to 2010.
“Alvaro Uribe transformed Colombian politics. His legacy is everywhere, and he remains an important political player,” Evans said.