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Cablegate: Uribe-Supreme Court Tensions Escalate

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #3193/01 2411629
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281629Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4424
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 8351
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0933
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 6503
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 2228
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 7189
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 003193

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/27/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PTER PHUM KJUS CO
SUBJECT: URIBE-SUPREME COURT TENSIONS ESCALATE

REF: BOGOTA 03007

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

SUMMARY
-------
1. (C) President Uribe intensified his offensive against the
Supreme Court the week of August 24 after the revelation that
senior GOC officials met three times at the presidential
place with emissaries of extradited former paramilitary
leader Diego Murillo Bejarano (Don Berna). The two allegedly
turned over evidence showing that the lead magistrate in the
Supreme Court's investigation of the parapolitical scandal
was seeking false evidence to incriminate Uribe. Supreme
Court President Javier Ricaurte publicly charged that the
meetings revealed a GOC plot to derail the parapolitical
investigations. Ricaurte later told us privately he had tried
to ignore previous disparaging comments from Uribe, but that
the news of the meetings with Don Berna's representatives
were unacceptable. He expects executive-judicial tensions to
remain high as long as the parapolitical investigations
continue.


URIBE DEFENDS STAFF, LASHES OUT AGAINST SUPREME COURT
--------------------------------------------- --------
2. (U) President Alvaro Uribe used a nationally broadcast
press conference on August 25 to intensify his criticism of
the Supreme Court. Uribe charged Ivan Velasquez, the lead
auxiliary magistrate in the investigations of
paramilitary-linked politicians, with "trafficking in
witnesses" and with "getting drunk" with witnesses. Uribe
further charged that the Supreme Court itself had become an
obstacle to investigating any wrongdoing by Velasquez, with
whom Uribe has had a long and public feud (see reftel). The
President alleged that a former paramilitary member
(Tasmania) who had recanted public accusations against
Velasquez had done so for political, not judicial, reasons.

3. (U) Uribe also strongly defended the decision of
presidential legal advisor Edmundo del Castillo and
presidential spokesman Cesar Velazquez to meet at the Casa de
Narino with Diego Alvarez, an attorney for Don Berna, and
Antonio Lopez (Job), a demobilized Berna henchman who was
murdered in July in Medellin. Uribe contended that Don
Berna's representatives had claimed to have evidence against
Velasquez, and that del Castillo had let the two drive into
the Casa Narino--a privilege usually reserved for senior
dignitaries--due to the delicacy of that evidence. The
president played video footage of the vehicle entering the
building, while the head of the Casa de Narino's security
detail showed the palace's official entry log recording the
pair's entrance. Such documentation, argued Uribe, proved
there was no intent to keep the meeting clandestine.

RICAUARTE CLAIMS MEETINGS PROVE PLOT AGAINST COURT
--------------------------------------------- -----
4. (U) A few hours before Uribe's press conference, Supreme
Court President Javier Ricaurte publicly denounced the Casa
deNarino meetings as proof that some GOC officials are
trying to discredit the Court in an effort to derail its
investigation of politicians' links to former paramilitaries.
Ricaurte charged that any evidence against Velasquez or
other judges should have been turned over to prosecutors and
judges who have more legal expertise than presidential aides
to determine whether the evidence constituted a crime. The
magistrate also questioned how Uribe could call for the
arrest of members of an infamous Medellin crime group at the
same time that some of his top aides met with other members
of that group. Ricaurte suggested that the Colombia's
Prosecutor General and the International Criminal Court (ICC)
should investigate. Court members met with ICC Prosecutor
Luis Moreno Ocampo on August 25 and reportedly voiced their
concern that the executive is trying to sabotage their
investigation of the parapolitical scandal.


PRESS PIECE THAT SPARKED THE FEUD
---------------------------------
5. (C) Uribe's outburst followed public revelations that GOC
officials del Castillo and Velsquez met three times--one at
the end of last year, one in March of this year, and one in
April of this year--in the Casa de Narino with Don Berna
emissaries Alvarez and Lopez. The two reportedly offered
video recordings showing that Supreme Court Auxiliary
Magistrate Ivan Velasquez was seeking to undermine Uribe by
collecting false evidence implicating the president in the
parapolitical scandal. The two also gave the presidential
aides videotapes purportedly showing a lawyer claiming to
represent Velasquez soliciting money from Alvarez in exchange
for favors from the court for Don Berna. Colombian National
Police Director Oscar Naranjo privately told us that the
meetings were organized by senior Uribe advisor Jose Obdulio
Gaviria.

FORMER PRESIDENT CESAR GAVIRIA CRITICIZES GOC STANCE
--------------------------------------------- -------
6. (U) Liberal Party chief and former president (1990-94)
Cesar Gaviria publicly demanded that Uribe explain how
paramilitary-linked figures could so easily enter the
presidential palace, and suggested that the ICC might examine
evidence linking GOC officials with figures tied to crimes
against humanity. Gaviria also rejected Uribe's charge that
his own administration had links to an anti-Pablo Escobar
vigilante group (Los Pepes) and denied Uribe's suggestion
that his own administration had bowed to narcotrafficker
pressure by including a ban on extradition in the 1991
Constitution. On August 27, Vice-President Francisco Santos
urged President Uribe and opposition political leaders to
moderate their discourse, arguing that the growing
polarization is damaging the country.

RICAURTE ANGRY, BAFFLED OVER URIBE'S MOTIVES
--------------------------------------------
7. (C) Ricaurte told us privately on August 26 that he was
angry over Uribe's charges. He explained that his commitment
to better executive-judicial branch relations had kept him
from responding to previous criticisms from the president,
but that he had found himself unable to remain silent in the
wake of the latest revelations. Ricaurte stressed that
bringing known criminals into the Casa de Narino was
unacceptable. Ricaurte said that despite Uribe's charges of
judicial bias, the Court simply follows evidence wherever it
may lead.

8. (C) Ricaurte offered three theories for Uribe's continued
attacks on the Court. First, that Uribe believes the Court
is investigating him--which Ricaurte says he has assured the
president is not the case. Second, Uribe fears that "all
roads lead to Rome" and that ongoing investigations into
presidential allies will eventually incriminate him.
Finally, Ricaurte speculated that Uribe is complying with
pressure from his congressional allies to block the
investigations. Ricaurte did not say which of the three he
believed, but he offered that he does not see the current
tensions abating as long as the parapolitical investigations
continue.

BROWNFIELD

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