Note as of 1:00 AM January 28: After 13 hours of deliberation today, El Tiempo reports, Colombia’s National Electoral Council decided to suspend the ADN party, citing the active role played by imprisoned politicians.
(This post was composed with research assistance from CIP Intern Cristina Salas.)
As Colombia inches closer to its March 14 legislative elections, it is growing ever clearer that the country has not left “para-politics” behind.
The last time Colombia reelected its Congress, in March 2006, about a third of the winners ended up under investigation, on trial or in prison for ties to mass-murdering, drug-trafficking paramilitary groups who were politically powerful in many regions. (Download a recent list here.) The resulting scandal raised public awareness of organized crime’s infiltration of Colombia’s government, and spurred Colombia’s Supreme Court to attempt an ambitious housecleaning in the legislature. But the phenomenon continues in the current election cycle.
Since the 2006 cycle, three parties all but ceased to exist because of the huge number of office-holders who ended up in trouble for sponsoring, aiding and abetting, or otherwise making deals with the right-wing militias. But “Colombia Viva,” “Colombia DemocrÃ¡tica” and “Convergencia Ciudadana” are back in new guises, running candidates for the March vote.
The three parties have undergone a makeover, reemerging as Alianza DemocrÃ¡tica Nacional (National Democratic Alliance) and Partido de IntegraciÃ³n Nacional (National Integration Party), but maintaining the legal registrations of Convergencia Ciudadana and Colombia DemocrÃ¡tica, respectively. (This El Tiempo editorial asserts that they maintain the legal registrations of Convergencia and Colombia Viva.)
Alianza DemocrÃ¡tica Nacional, or â€œADNâ€ (the Spanish initials of DNA, as in genetic code), was created in early December by former members of Colombia Viva, Convergencia Ciudadana and Colombia DemocrÃ¡tica, the latter party founded by President Ãlvaro Uribe’s second cousin Mario Uribe, who is currently under investigation for paramilitary ties. Colombia Viva included Senator Vicente Blel, sentenced this week to seven years in prison, and Ãlvaro GarcÃa, accused of conspiring with paramilitaries who carried out a notoriously horrific string of massacres in the Montes de MarÃa region during the early 2000s. Juan Carlos MartÃnez, a Convergencia Ciudadana senator from Valle del Cauca, isÂ accused of helping to organize the ADN party from his prison cell.
Former members of Convergencia Ciudadana created the Partido de IntegraciÃ³n Nacional, or â€œPINâ€, after the earlier party ceased to exist because its founder, ex-senator Luis Alberto Gil, was jailed and another one of its leaders, ex-governor of Santander Hugo Aguilar, came under judicial investigation.
Colombian analysts say that these political parties exist in part to support the campaigns of political heirs of the “para-politicians,” thus guaranteeing their continued influence and local political power. As the scandal leaves voids in local political leadership structures, the parties aim to fill them with the scandal-tarred bosses’ friends, relatives or allies.Â In the candidates list for the upcoming elections, for instance, ex-senator Gil has been replaced by his wife, and ex-governor Aguilar by his son. (More examples of family members serving as substitutes can be found in this piece in the Colombian newsmagazine Cambio.)
The head of the largest “mainstream” pro-Uribe party, former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos of the â€œPartido Social de la Unidadâ€ or â€œUâ€, claims that the party is doing its utmost to avoid paramilitary influence. (Several “U” party legislators have been embroiled in the para-politics scandal, though the party was not hit as hard as the three parties being re-packaged today.) Santos announced that all “U” candidates for the upcoming Congress elections will be investigated for ties with illegal groups, including the signing of sworn statements and verification by an “ethics committee.”
Left-of-center Semana columnist MarÃa Jimena DuzÃ¡n says that those who do not pass muster in La U will end up in the ADN or PIN parties, “enchanted creations conceived at the last minute by the Palace of NariÃ±o [Colombian 'White House'] to house the scum of the paramilitary mafia that the ‘U’ no longer has the luxury of admitting.”
Meanwhile, ADN and PIN, their campaigns flush with cash, are blanketing several regions of Colombia with advertisements professing their support for President Uribe, hoping to ride his coat-tails back into office, four years after the “para-politics” scandal first broke.