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Cablegate: Uribe Vs the Supreme Court

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DE RUEHBO #0591 0451859
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P 141859Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1405
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 9959
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ FEB 9232
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5911
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1242
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6559
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4293
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNDTA/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1893

UNCLAS BOGOTA 000591

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR PINS CO
SUBJECT: URIBE VS THE SUPREME COURT

1. Summary: In January, Supreme Court Justice Cesar Valencia
publicly accused President Alvaro Uribe of interfering in the
Supreme Court's investigation of the president's distant
cousin for alleged paramilitary connections. Valencia said
Uribe called him to complain about the Court's actions and to
present new information on the case. Uribe vehemently denied
the accusation and filed a criminal complaint against
Valencia. Political commentators and the media urged the
two to settle the dispute privately and avoid a fight between
the executive and judicial branches. Congress is responsible
for investigating charges against Court members. If it moves
ahead, the case will likely take months or years to resolve
due to the complexity of the congressional accusation system.
End summary.

CASE AGAINST URIBE
------------------

2. In early January, Supreme Court Magistrate Cesar Julio
Valencia Copete said in an interview in "El Espectador"
newspaper that President Alvaro Uribe called him on September
26, 2007, to voice concern over the Court's investigation of
his distant cousin and longtime political associate, Mario
Uribe. The president also allegedly provided additional
facts about the case. Mario Uribe is under investigation by
the Supreme Court for alleged ties to paramilitary groups,
and resigned from the Senate in October 2007.

URIBE COUNTERS
--------------

3. President Uribe adamantly denied any discussion or
interference in the case against his cousin, and filed a
criminal libel complaint against Valencia in the Congress'
Commission of Accusations. (Note: Under Colombia's
Constitution, the Commission is responsible for handling
allegations against Court members). Uribe said he called
Valencia to discuss the case of former paramilitary
'Tasmania," which involved an alleged offer of leniency by a
Supreme Court auxiliary magistrate to 'Tasmania" in exchange
for testimony implicating President Uribe in a murder attempt.

4. Uribe charged that Valencia is trying to undermine him to
advance his own career, and volunteered to take a polygraph
test to confirm his version of events. Both Valencia and
Uribe have hired lawyers to represent their interests.
Valencia has demanded that "Uribe withdraw the complaint."

CRITICISM OF URIBE'S ACTIONS
----------------------------

5. Media and political commentators have urged Uribe and
Valencia to settle the dispute without dragging the country
into an ugly battle between the executive and judicial
branches. Former Vice President Humberto de la Calle Lombana
criticized the president for filing the complaint, and said
the country risked "falling into a dangerous environment of
polarization." He said it is unlikely the truth would ever
be known in a case of "he said, he said," and counseled Uribe
as head of state to "stay above" such trivial matters for the
good of Colombia's institutions. Uribe's criminal complaint
comes against the backdrop of repeated clashes between Uribe,
Valenica, and other members of the Supreme Court.

NEXT STEPS
----------

6. The case, if not resolved privately, could take months or
years to resolve. The Congress' Commission of Accusations
will meet in March to decide whether there is enough evidence
to proceed in the case. If the Commission finds there is
sufficient evidence to continue, it will investigate and
provide its findings to the House of Representatives. The
House would then determine whether to support or reject the
Commission's findings. If the case moves ahead, the Senate
would then have final authority to impeach or suspend
Valencia. If the Senate votes to impeach, the case would
return to the Supreme Court, which would adjudicate the libel
charge on the merits.
Brownfield

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