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Uribe's headache: Politicians accused of ties to rebels

  • Story Highlights
  • 30 Colombian congressmen sought for alleged ties to the paramilitary groups
  • Colombian President Alvaro Uribe got advice on handling problem Wednesday
  • Uribe's cousin, a former senator, has been investigated for years, AG says
  • This week, Costa Rica denied Mario Uribe political asylum; he was captured
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From Fernando Ramos
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BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is trying to navigate a crisis: how to operate a government in which 30 Colombian congressmen have been formally sought by prosecutors for alleged ties to right-wing paramilitary groups.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is surrounded by politicians who are accused of ties to paramilitary groups.

Another 60 politicians are being investigated for their ties to the rebels.

In a meeting Wednesday with legislators in his government, Uribe listened to suggestions about how to tackle the problem.

Some have called for a meeting of the Constitutional Assembly, and others insist that the current Congress be dissolved. Some want elections moved up.

"I think that there still is the risk in this Congress and in a future Congress, or in a body that might be elected the day after tomorrow, that the mafias will return and begin meddling again," said Rep. Roy Barreras of Radical Change, which supports Uribe. "To plan elections without first changing the rules of the game is foolishness."

"I think the big problem with Colombia, let's be clear, is the cocaine," said Rep. Oscar Arboleda, president of the House of Representatives. "From it comes the guns; with it, the hearts of Colombians are damaged, as are those of non-Colombians."

The scandal got personal for the president this week.

Mario Uribe, a former senator and the president's second cousin, was captured Tuesday night by the public prosecutor as he departed the Costa Rican Embassy in Bogota after the Costa Rican government refused to grant him political asylum. Video Watch a shouting crowd surround a car believed to be carrying Mario Uribe »

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Mario Uribe resigned last year as president of Colombia's Senate after Colombian prosecutors launched an investigation into his alleged ties to right-wing paramilitary groups.

Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguaran Arana issued a warrant, saying he has been investigating a meeting between Mario Uribe and a former paramilitary leader, Salvatore Mancuso, that took place before congressional elections on March 10, 2002.

The office said it was also investigating a meeting with Jairo Castillo Peralta, alias Pitirri, in November 1998. Peralta was a paramilitary driver, according to The Associated Press.

"We think that the government of Costa Rica made a very important decision," said Ivan Cepeda, a member of the Association of Victims of Paramilitaries.

It "set a precedent showing that the international community supports -- in a clear manner -- the state of rights and also that he cannot use a procedure like political asylum to hide conspiracy to break the law with paramilitary groups, which are responsible for thousands of crimes in Colombia."

Associations of victims of the paramilitary groups and their relatives have demanded justice and reparations.

Mario Uribe's lawyers say that Uribe's request for asylum was a mistake and that they will not appeal the attorney general's move.

"The attorney general has given us broad guarantees," attorney Nodier Agudelo said. "We have a just process. We have had controversy about the evidence more than anything."

The tribunals of justice -- the nation's court system -- have made a joint public pronouncement rejecting any interference in the judicial processes and guaranteeing impartiality in their decisions.

Meanwhile, various witnesses, among them former members of Congress and former chiefs of self-defense forces, continue revealing more alleged connections between other politicians and paramilitaries.


The paramilitary groups and the Colombian military have been fighting left-wing guerrillas for control of the countryside for four decades.

The U.S. State Department considers the guerrilla and paramilitary groups to be terrorist organizations. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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