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Cablegate: No End in Sight to Uribe-Supreme Court Power

VZCZCXYZ0009
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3007/01 2281721
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 151721Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4193
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 8324
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0876
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6454
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 2165
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 7146
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFIUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 003007

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/13/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PTER PHUM KJUS CO
SUBJECT: NO END IN SIGHT TO URIBE-SUPREME COURT POWER
STRUGGLE

Classified By: Political Counselor John Creamer
Reasons 1.4 (b and d)

SUMMARY
-------
1. (C) President Uribe used a statement by Senator Nancy
Patricia Gutierrez accusing Auxiliary Supreme Court
Magistrate Ivan Velasquez of irregularities in his
para-political investigations, to slam the Supreme Court for
"judicialclientalism" and nepotism. Uribe urged Congress to
proceed with judicial reform, and told members of Congress
they could not remain "cowards" in the face of court
investigations. The Court backed Velasquez against Uribe's
charges, and asked the Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia)
to investigate the allegations. Uribe's Communications
Director Jorge Eastman told us Uribe-Supreme Court relations
had reached a "point of no return." Police Director Oscar
Naranjo privately agreed some magistrates are motivated by
political bias, but noted that key Uribe advisors
orchestrated at least two efforts to discredit the court.
End summary.

URIBE CONTINUES OFFENSIVE AGAINST COURTS
----------------------------------------
2. (U) President Alvaro Uribe continued his offensive against
the Supreme Court the week of August 11, suggesting that
some court officials sought bribes in the para-political
investigations and accusing the high courts of "judicial
clientalism." Uribe highlighted accusations of political
bias by former Senate President Nancy Patricia Gutierrez.
Gutierrez legally taped a court investigator assigned to
Auxiliary Supreme Court Magistrate Ivan
Velasquez--responsible for many para-political cases--who
questioned whether Velasquez had acted legally in his
investigations and intimated that the investigations were
politically driven. Uribe also cited allegations by former
Senator Ruben Quintero--his private secretary during Uribe's
tenure as Governor of Antioquia--that some magistrates have
sought bribes from legislators in the para-political cases.

3. (U) Uribe used an August 13 meeting with his Congressional
coalition on judicial reform to slam the courts for nepotism.
The president said the courts had developed a system of
"judicialclientalism" focused on garnering jobs for family
members and allies throughout the different judicial
institutions. Uribe urged Congressional leaders to move
forward on a controversial judicial reform proposal (reftel),
and chastised members of Congress for being "cowards" in the
face of para-political investigations. Uribe insisted that
Congress move ahead with the reform, saying "we cannot speak
with fear!" Several legislators claimed to be afraid to
support the reform package out of fear they would be later
investigated by the court.

COURT RESPONDS
--------------
4. (U) The Supreme Court quickly rejected Uribe's statements
and backed Velasquez, who said he would remain in office.
The Supreme Court issued a declaration on August 12 that
noted the seriousness of the Uribe/Gutierrez allegations and
asked the Fiscalia to investigate the charges. The court
also asked the Fiscalia to investigate the court investigator
taped by Gutierrez. On August 14, the court issued a
statement that it would provide both the Interamerican Court
on Human Rights and the International Criminal Court
information on supposed interference by the GOC in judicial
affairs. Velasquez, who previously suggested he might quit
due to political pressure, said he would continue his
para-political investigations. In a series of high-profile
interviews in the local press, Velasquez defended his actions
point-by-point, and alleged that he and other magistrates
have been victims of a "dirty tricks" campaign mounted out of
the Casa de Narino.

"POINT OF NO RETURN"
--------------------
5. (C) Presidential Communications Director Jorge Mario
Eastman told us Uribe's relations with the Supreme Court had
reached a "point of no return." Recent meetings with Supreme
Court magistrates did nothing to improve executive-judicial
relations. Eastman said Uribe had a history with Velasquez

dating back to Antioquia, and claimed that Velasquez--as well
as other magistrates--were "out to get" Uribe and his
political allies. He reiterated the GOC view that some
magistrates have criminal ties to former paramilitaries as
well as links to the opposition, but admitted he had no proof
to back up his allegations. Eastman denied any Casa de
Narino involvement in efforts to discredit Velasquez or other
magistrates.

6. (C) Eastman said the GOC remains committed to its judicial
reform package, but misjudged the reaction of the judiciary
and Congress. He said Interior and Justice Minister Fabio
Valencia Cossio did not expect the entire judiciary to oppose
his initial draft. The reform was drafted by Valencia--as
well as Eastman and Jose ObdulioGaviria--but Valencia has
taken the hit inside the Casa de Narino for the proposal's
poor start. Luz Gutierrez, Valencia's Congressional liaison
officer, told us the minister, a long-time senator himself,
overestimated his ability to charm the courts and to move the
reform quickly in Congress.

SOME MAGISTRATES AGAINST URIBE
------------------------------
7. (C) National Police Commander General Oscar Naranjo told
us he agreed that some magistrates have allowed politics to
influence their judicial rulings. The court's judicial
tactics, including evaluation of witness credibility, has
been flawed in some case. He noted that the jailing of
para-politicians during preliminary stages of investigations
("indagatoria"), as opposed to the later accusation phase of
judicial proceedings, was uncommon and had led to suspicions
of political bias. Naranjo said Magistrate Yesid Ramirez had
ties to known Italian narco-trafficker Giorgio Sale, but
added that most magistrates were clean.

8. (C) Naranjo said President Uribe constantly pushes him to
provide added security to Court magistrates, leading him to
discount any Uribe involvement in a dirty tricks campaign
against the court. Still, he said presidential advisor Jose
ObdulioGavaria was behind a recent attempt to discredit
Velasquez using former paramilitaries in Medellin.Naranjo
noted that former Senator Mario Uribe had orchestrated a
similar effort involving a former paramilitary ("Tasmania")
who claimed Velasquez had offered him legal benefits to
implicate Uribe in a murder. During the subsequent Fiscalia
investigation, "Tasmania" recanted his testimony. He claimed
that he had been paid by former paramilitary Juan Carlos
Sierra (El Tuso), who was recently extradited to the United
States, to make the false allegations.
BROWNFIELD

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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