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Colombia's Uribe calls senator who alleged he helped death squads a 'slanderer'

Colombia's Uribe calls senator who alleged he helped death squads a 'slanderer'

President Alvaro Uribe fought back Wednesday against allegations he aided the rise of far-right death squads when he was a governor in northern Colombia, calling an opposition lawmaker who presented the accusations to congress a "slanderer."
In a two-and-a-half-hour presentation on Tuesday, Sen. Gustavo Petro accused Uribe of letting his family's farms be used by the paramilitaries as killing zones and meeting points. He also demanded that the president's brother, Santiago, be investigated for his alleged role in a death squad known as the 12 Apostles.
"To be a mediocre guerrilla and such a lucid slanderer speaks very poorly of the character of the guerrilla," Uribe said in a speech in the Caribbean city of Cartagena, referring to Petro's time in the now-defunct leftist rebel group M-19.
Petro, who has fashioned himself as Uribe's nemesis in congress, has said he was in the M-19's political wing and never fired a shot.
The scandal over links between the far-right death squads and the establishment continued to widen as three more pro-government congressmen were called Wednesday to testify before the Supreme Court. One, Sen. Ruben Dario Quintero, was the private secretary to Uribe when he was the governor of Antioquia province between 1995 and 1997.
Eight legislators are already in jail on charges of helping the paramilitaries launch a nationwide offensive that killed thousands in some of the worst atrocities of Colombia's recent history.
The scandal has crept ever closer to Uribe, who was re-elected last year on promises to expand his hardline approach to battling the country's rebels. His foreign minister resigned after her brother, a senator, was jailed in the scandal, and a former regional campaign manager and hand-picked head of the secret police is facing charges of collaborating with the militias.
Uribe has denied any connection between his family and the paramilitaries, insisting that he is fighting all of Colombia's armed groups.
In his speech to congress, Petro _ of the left-wing Polo Democratica Alternativa party _ accused Uribe of authorizing two men to create legal vigilante groups, who then later went on to become leading members of the paramilitary death squads.
A statement issued Wednesday by Colombia's private security regulator denied that Uribe had authorized one of the men to join the self-defense groups, known as Convivir, and said he had canceled the permit for the other.
Petro, who says he received death threats in the run up to the debate, also brought up jailed warlord Salvatore Mancuso's testimony that an Antioquia government helicopter was present during a 1997 massacre in the town of el Aro.
Petro also showed a photo of Santiago Uribe posing with convicted drug trafficker Fabio Ochoa in 1985, when Ochoa was already working alongside Pablo Escobar in the infamous Medellin cartel.
The senator has proposed the creation of local assemblies to discuss the experience of paramilitaries across the country as well as land reform that would end the concentration of most fertile terrain in the hands of a wealthy few.
Landowners, drug traffickers and parts of the military were the principal backers of the paramilitaries _ some 31,000 of whom have recently disarmed under a peace deal with the government.
In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Petro again called for the truth to emerge about links between Colombia's elite and the paramilitaries.
"The victim's forgiveness can only come when the truth is out," Petro said.
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Associated Press Writer Sergio de Leon in Bogota contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-16 15:50 GMT+08:00