The ex-President of Colombia Álvaro Uribe Vélez broke with his usual camera adverse protocol to take a screenshot of himself on Wednesday. The picture posted on Twitter went viral, given that it is the first image of barred Senator of the Centro Democrático party under house arrest, and equally important, shows the right-wing leader without glasses and stunned after being served his official inmate ID #1087985 by the country’s prison authority INPEC.
The picture generated a wide range of emotions from his 4.9 million online followers, from anger to shock, outrage and empathy. Accompanying the photograph, Uribe Vélez writes: “Today I was reported as prisoner #1087985 for confronting testimonies against me bought by the FARC, its new generation and allies. No evidence, only inferences. They illegally intercepted me. They prevented my lawyers from cross-examining the main witness. I ask for transparency.”
Uribe is being treated for coronavirus at his El Ubérrimo estate, in the department of Córdoba, isolated from his wife and two sons who reside in Rionegro, Antioquia. Rionegro is a satellite community near the departmental capital Medellín.
In an unprecedented Supreme Court decision August 4, the ex-President was ordered to preventive house arrest in a move to distance him from potentially influencing the outcome of a criminal case that was opened against him in 2018 by Senator Iván Cepeda of the left-wing Polo Democrático, after a taped accusation by a former paramilitary claims Uribe Vélez knew of the creation of an illegal armed group when acting as governor of Antioquia from 1995 – 1997.
Serving a prison term for homicide and extorsion at La Picota penitentiary in Bogotá, Juan Guillermo Monsalve granted Cepeda a recorded interview in which the demobilized paramilitary also affirms that Uribe Vélez’s lawyers attempted to bribe him in order for him to retract his accusation.
The magistrates based their ruling on house arrest based on charges of witness tampering by Uribe’s legal team.
According to Monsalve, members of the Metro Bloc of AUC were trained at one of Uribe’s rural farms – Guacharacas – before engaging in combat with guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The AUC, under command of Carlos Castaño, was responsible for widespread human rights abuses, extra-judicial killings and massacres against civilians. The evidence against Uribe Vélez also implicates his brother Santiago for allegedly expanding the paramilitary presence in Antioquia. The department witnessed some of the worst massacres during the height of the country’s internal conflict with FARC.
Uribe Vélez has repeatedly denied allegations that he was involved in paramilitary activity as governor of Antioquia and two-term President of Colombia (2002-2010), and has asked magistrates of the Supreme Court to make the case and trail against him open to the public.
On Wednesday, Uribe Vélez was dealt a political blow by the high court when his Senatorial seat was suspended, giving lawmakers five days to find his replacement in Congress.