Here is Colombian President Ãlvaro Uribe yesterday, in another attack on judicial investigators of the “para-politics” scandal, as well as opposition members of Congress:
A senator [Nancy Patricia GutiÃ©rrez, a former Senate president now under investigation for paramilitary links] has told me that she has felt… that sectors of justice [investigating the scandal] have wanted to ask her for money. Why didn’t she denounce it? She said that they did it so subtly that it would have been difficult to denounce, and that she was afraid to do it. And we also know of interferences… interferences of justice. It is important that the justice system investigate what manipulations of witnesses have been carried out by [opposition legislators] Sen. Piedad CÃ³rdoba or Sen. Gustavo Petro. It is very important to do that.
The accusations against CÃ³rdoba and Petro have no evidence to back them up, and Sen. GutiÃ©rrez’s accusations, based on a recorded conversation with an investigator from the prosecutor-general’s office [FiscalÃa], are troubling – the investigator has since
been taken off of the “parapolitics” investigations – but vague and hardly indicative of a pattern.
President Uribe’s accusations, obviously intended to impugn the character of Supreme Court investigators and weaken the political opposition, may play well in Colombia’s internal political battles and in Colombian public opinion. Viewed from outside, however, the President is sending a terrible message.
A foreign government – or investor, or journalist, or anyone constantly evaluating their country’s relations with Colombia – would feel most confident if President Uribe’s reaction to the “para-politics” revelations were something like: “The idea that top officials could have been supporting mass-murdering drug-trafficking terrorists is shocking. Let’s give the judicial system the tools and support it needs to investigate this, punish it, and make sure that it never happens again. Colombia has to be a country of laws, and we can no longer be tolerant of those who benefit from corruption, organized crime, and even crimes against humanity. Let’s let the justice system do its job.”
Sounds reasonable, right? We should be disturbed, then, that President Uribe’s reactions have so often been the exact opposite. This is the latest in a string of verbal attacks – some of the most high-profile of which have turned out to be baseless – seeking to undermine the credibility of Colombian judicial investigators. The Supreme Court’s chief “para-politics” investigator, judge IvÃ¡n VelÃ¡squez, told El Tiempo that the constant pressure has him thinking about submitting his resignation.
The President is making the “para-politics” investigators’ work more difficult. Viewed from outside Colombia, this behavior sends up very strong warning signals.