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US Cables: Colombia’s Ex-President Suspected Of Militia Ties

A high-level U.S. Department of Defense official strongly suspected that Colombia’s then-President Álvaro Uribe – now under house arrest - had a history of dealings with violent paramilitaries, according to a newly declassified memo from his early years in office.

The document is among a batch of records shared with The Associated Press by the nonprofit National Security Archive, which contends it is the first to show that concerns about Uribe’s potentially unsavory ties with armed groups hired by wealthy landowners to protect them from guerrillas reached the highest levels of the Pentagon.

“Uribe almost certainly had dealings with the paramilitaries (AUC) while governor of Antioquia,” Peter Rodman, then a top Pentagon deputy, wrote Bush-era Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a confidential 2004 dispatch. “It goes with the job.”

The missive adds to suspicions – which Uribe has vehemently denied — that the man credited with turning the tide in Colombia’s long war with Marxist combatants himself engaged with violent actors while leading the province that includes Medellin in the 1990s. The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known by their Spanish acronym AUC, were declared a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2001.

The Supreme Court is investigating allegations Uribe pressured ex-paramilitaries into retracting statements linking him to their militias in a case that has divided the nation and brought tensions over Colombia’s peace process to the surface.

The documents don’t include any specific description of direct interactions between the former president and paramilitaries, and there is little to show whether or how deeply the U.S. tried to determine if any ties did in fact exist. But dozens of lawmakers – including numerous Uribe allies – have been jailed and convicted for ties with paramilitaries, establishing a clear connection between politicians and the illegal armed groups.

Read entire article at Associated Press