INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Uribe Rebuts Questionable Aro Massacre Testimony

Published: Thu 24 Apr 2008 07:45 PM
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SUBJECT: URIBE REBUTS QUESTIONABLE ARO MASSACRE TESTIMONY
1. President Alvaro Uribe told the media on April 23 that
testimony by convicted criminal Francisco Villalba that Uribe
was involved in the 1997 paramilitary El Aro massacre was not
credible and invented to obtain judicial benefits. On
October 22, 1997, 15 people in Ituango, Antioquia were
massacred by paramilitaries with support from elements of the
military. Colombian Courts and the Inter-American Court for
Human Rights found the GOC liable in the massacre and ordered
restitution paid to victims' families. Uribe was governor of
Antioquia at the time. Villalba claims Uribe and his brother
Santiago met with the paramilitaries to discuss the rescue of
eight kidnap victims, and later congratulated them on a
successful operation. He said the paramilitary leaders who
met with Uribe included Salvatore Mancuso and Carlos Castano.
2. Uribe and the news media have pointed out numerous,
significant inconsistencies in Villalba's story. Uribe said
that at least one of the supposed participants that Villalba
placed at the massacre--General Manosalva--died three months
before the event occurred. Fondelibertad reports that there
is no record that the kidnappings described by Villalba took
place, and no other paramilitaries have referred to the
existence of a "Toledo Bloc" which Villalba claims was the
group responsible for the massacre. Presidential legal
advisor Edmundo del Castilllo told us Villalba's testimony in
two other cases has been discredited, and that several
witnesses, including Mancuso, have rebutted his claims about
Uribe's involvement in El Aro.
3. "El Tiempo" reported April 23 that FARC member Lidya Alape
("Jessica"), now in jail and reportedly involved in several
mysterious bombings in Bogota in July, 2006, had several
conjugal visits with Villalba and may have helped him invent
his testimony. Villalba was sentenced to 33 years in prison
for his involvement in the El Aro massacre and 37 years for
his participation in the Balsita massacre. Prior to his
testimony against Uribe, he applied for benefits under the
Justice and Peace law that would reduce his sentence to 8
months. The Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia) heard
Villalba's testimony, but it is the Congressional Commission
of Accusations that would hear any criminal case against the
president.
BROWNFIELD
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