The apparent mention of Colombian Senator Alvaro Uribe by two young Venezuelans planning terrorist acts in their homeland serves as a timely reminder of the former president’s significance to violent right-wing groups ahead of a debate into paramilitarism by Colombia’s Senate.
The video released by Venezuelan state television, VTV, on September 15 depicts opposition activists Lorent Gomez Saleh and Gabriel Valles speaking about their plans to attack a major bridge in the border state of Táchira, as well as talking about undergoing training in Bogota and carrying out other terrorist acts.
At the beginning of the published section of what appears to be an internet conference call, Saleh says, “On Saturday Uribe is coming here and on Monday we are going to take the bridge… Little by little we’re going to heat Táchira up.”
The young men were reportedly speaking from the Colombian border city of Cucuta—which sits a few kilometers from the Simon Bolivar International Bridge linking Colombia to Venezuela—just days before they were expelled from the country on September 4 for “national security reasons.”
Government officials have subsequently clarified that the expulsion was based on the men’s presence and activities in the country being based on falsified documents.
While the fact Uribe is only mentioned by surname allows for some plausible deniability from the right-wing politician’s camp, there are well reported historical links between the former President and the Venezuelan opposition, including meetings with imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.
Uribe has consistently railed against the Venezuelan administration and oversaw a major deterioration in bilateral relations during his 2002-2010 presidency, which his successor Juan Manuel Santos has worked hard to overcome.
In the aftermath of the expulsion of the pair, Uribe took to social media to declare it an act of “national shame,” though he has been less vocal since the video emerged apparently debunking their claims of being peaceful human rights activists.
Though no links have been proven between Uribe or his Democratic Center Party and the activity of the young men, it is just the latest example of Uribe being associated with illegal armed right-wing activity and comes on the eve of a debate in Colombia’s Senate on September 17 into ties between politicians and paramilitary groups.
In that debate, Alvaro Uribe is expected to be a focal point for progressive senators such as Ivan Cepeda and Alirio Uribe, who have pushed for greater accountability of the top leaders responsible for allowing—and possibly orchestrating—the illegal armed groups that are estimated by the United Nations to be responsible for more than 80 percent of killings within Colombia’s internal conflict.
As he has consistently done, Alvaro Uribe will vehemently deny any responsibility on the part of himself or his allies in illegality, while decrying acts by the current Colombian government regardless of their sound legal basis.