Judge Julio CÃ©sar Valencia.
Remember the “para-politics” scandal? (There are many in Colombia who hope that you don’t.) It took a very odd turn last week, as President Ãlvaro Uribe announced that he is pressing charges of slander against CÃ©sar Julio Valencia, who until two weeks ago was the chief justice of Colombia’s Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is charged with investigating and prosecuting the more than 40 members of Colombia’s Congress alleged to have supported paramilitary groups. Among these legislators is President Uribe’s cousin, Mario Uribe.
In September, Ãlvaro Uribe called Judge Valencia on his cellphone. The president was enraged because a low-ranking imprisoned paramilitary leader nicknamed “Tasmania” had written him a letter alleging that Supreme Court investigators had sought to get him to give false evidence implicating Uribe.
Earlier this month, in an interview with the Colombian newspaper El Espectador, Valencia said that during the same conversation, President Uribe also asked about his cousin’s case.
President Uribe vehemently denies that he inquired about his cousin. Judge Valencia, whose term just ended, refuses to retract what he said. So President Uribe is now pressing charges against the outgoing supreme-court chief justice. The charge is slander, which is a criminal offense in Colombia.
A statement from the Polo DemocrÃ¡tico, Colombia’s leftist opposition party, explains why Valencia will have little opportunity to defend himself, and why the truth about that telephone conversation is unlikely to emerge.
The only possible witnesses in the procedures are three high employees of the Uribe government. The trial will begin with the Prosecution Commission of the House of Representatives, an entity controlled entirely by the political friends of President Ãlvaro Uribe VÃ©lez, the very same people who systematically refuse to comply with the law when he is the accused and who constitute part of the bureaucratic apparatus that is also controlled by the head of state. Will there be justice for the President of the Supreme Court if the accuser, the witnesses, and the judges all share the same interests and belong to the same para-politician group under investigation by that Supreme Court?
Is President Uribe so distressed by this alleged smear on his record that he is willing to clash at such a high level with the judicial branch? Or is this an effort to distract and even to intimidate the Supreme Court, which has been taking seriously its duty to investigate and punish the dozens of Uribe supporters facing â€œpara-politicsâ€ accusations?