[Regular posting should begin again Thursday. In the meantime, here is a post from CIP Intern Anthony Dest.]
In a recent interview with Gustavo GÃ³mez of the Colombian magazine Semana, Colombian lawyer Abelardo de la Espriella offered a spirited defense of his work defending paramilitary leaders, para-politicians and businesses with questionable financing, such as David Murcia’s highly questioned DMG holding company.
De la Espriella’s unabashed responses offer a glimpse into a powerful sector of Colombia’s politics and society that continues to resist the rule of law. As the “para-politics” scandal has shown, this sector has been an important base of political support for President Alvaro Uribe.
Here are a few translated quotes from the interview:
Gustavo GÃ³mez: Have you ever received money from ‘Ernesto BÃ¡ez,’ Salvatore Mancuso or ‘Jorge 40?’ [All three individuals are currently in U.S. or Colombian prisons awaiting trial for drug or human-rights crimes related to their leadership roles in the AUC.]
Abelardo de la Espriella: Never, and I will submit myself to a polygraph if you like, Gustavo.
Gustavo GÃ³mez: Are you friends with them?
Abelardo de la Espriella: I met ‘Ernesto BÃ¡ez,’ whom I consider the romantic of the paramilitaries, and ‘Jorge 40′ at the negotiation table and we formed a good friendship. Mancuso is my paisano, and he took on a struggle that all of us from CÃ³rdoba should have supported. If I were in his place, I would have have done the same thing. Critics have wanted to call me a paramilitary, but, like Uribe says, if they had wanted to kill and extort me, I would have been a true paramilitary, with a uniform and a gun.
Gustavo GÃ³mez: Does the title “defender of para-politics” make you proud?
Abelardo de la Espriella: Of course, now I would like for someone to give me the title of ‘Defender of DMG,’ or that people will begin use the nickname [investigative journalist Daniel] Coronell gave me: the “Proxy.” ["El Apoderado"] Sometimes I answer the phone when my friends call and when they ask me who is speaking I tell them: “the Proxy.”