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The extradition, air for the “parapoliticians”

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Wednesday 14 May 2008 11:53 COT

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The unexpected extradition of 14 important paramilitary bosses to the United States galvanized again the so-called "parapoliticians" and covers with a smoke screen the re-election fraud.

Several interpretations can be made from the government’s decision. The first is the legal one. The government alleges that the extradited chiefs broke the Justice and Peace Law by not telling all the truth, not hand all their assets over for repairing the victims, and continue committing crimes from prison.

That is true. They were delivering the “truths” little by little to the judicial authorities, containing veiled threats or simply they did not say a word claiming cynical amnesias. Nevertheless, the tip-off of their political allies and the revelation of the location of the common graves where their victims are buried are an evident gain.

As for the delivering of their assets, the joke was obvious. Very few of them, if not devalued or in others’ hands. So scarce that, after doing the math, each victim would receive COP7,000 (US$4 or €2.50).

Finally, the continuation of their illegal activities was denounced several times, and despite of this the Government ignored it in order to avoid the peace process failure. Since the Justice and Peace law states that the failure to execute these obligations has as a consequence the loss of the benefits, it is clear that the militia bosses could not continue in the process.

The second interpretation is the political one, which is the one generating more distrust. Despite they did not reveal all the truth, what the paramilitary bosses told was enough for some thirty lawmakers were jailed, and a similar figure of them remain free but under investigation. But the scandal does not stop there. The majority of these parapoliticians come from the Uribista factions, which erodes their legitimacy, compromising the government’s majorities in the Congress and, consequently, the very same governability. Without the enough majorities, the government’s law projects would fail to pass, strengthening the opposition.

To top the Uribista/ruling chaos, a last wave of investigations and arrests of parapoliticians, based on the confessions of the paramilitaries, reached the president of the Party of the U (the ruling party), the President’s cousin, and the president of the Congress, putting the government and the parliament on the ropes. The blow was so hard that the Supreme Court was accused of wishing to break the institutionalization of the country and asked for objectivity, but the snowball kept growing and every testimony of a paramilitary was seen as a new scandal and more investigated congresspeople.

With a Congress about to fail because of its lack of legitimacy the political reform became an essential need in its second term. The serious thing came when the so-called “empty chair” since the arrest and not since the sentence, as the government wished, was pacted. With this measure the government’s majorities were threatened, with the 30 or so Uribista congresspeople in jail. Important commissions of the Congress, such as the First Commission, remained without majorieites and the possibility of more congresspeople arrests weakened Uribistas in the Congress.

There would not be a bigger hecatomb for the Uribistas. That is why the government’s chess game started. The first was to separate from the parties whose corruption was evident. The Peace Commissioner was the person in charge of sending a message to the country. The parties should dissolve not only because they are corrupt but because they do not even have enough electoral wealth. They owe it to the president. Even though nothing would happen, Uribe got his way: to show he is different to the parties which elected him. He lubricated his teflon.

The second thing, to question past peace processes, urging the amnistied guerrillas to behave as the paramilitaries, telling the truth and repairing the victims, putting his opponents on the defensive.

The next one was to make the political reform fail, with the threat of losing the majorities in the Congress. Though an alliance with the Liberal Party and a parlamentary move to replace the disqualified congresspeople in the First Commission ensured its approval, they decided not to do so, proposing a new political reform instead, colourless, odorless, and flavourless, which puts the “empty chair” aside, the loss of the electoral wealth, and the devolution of the money earned for reposition of votes. It will be discussed and passed in the next term, without a doubt, as a joke king for the country.

And of course, the smoke screen on the re-election fraud could not be missing, denounced by former Congresswoman Yidis Medina, strengthening the presidential image in the collective immagination by showing a strong attitude towards crime and a commitment with the country.

A last play is the perfect finale of the game for the Government: if the paramilitary leaders had broken the Justice and Peace Law why were not they left in hands of the Colombian ordinary justice in order to be prosecuted as any other criminal? The high sentences would have meant that the government did wished to defeat impunity. But it was not done so, perhaps because they wish to avoid new revelations. Though there is the promise that the paramilitary chiefs can continue to telling the truths in the United States, the preparation of the trial can take one year, enough time to stop the damaged caused by the parapolitical scandal, and devote firmly and with a big heart to the second re-election, safe from any danger or threat, with an ad hoc Congress.

*The author is a Colombian lawyer and journalist, editor of equinoXio, where this article was originally published 13 May 2008. Translated by Julián Ortega Martínez

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