Latin America Advisor

A Daily Publication of The Dialogue

Why Has Colombia’s Former President Been Arrested?

The Supreme Court’s decision to place former President Álvaro Uribe under house arrest has opened a Pandora’s box of controversy, Peter DeShazo writes in the edition. // File Photo: Colombian Government.

Colombia’s Supreme Court on Aug. 4 ordered former President Álvaro Uribe to be placed on house arrest in connection with witness-tampering allegations against him. Uribe, who has not been charged, has denied wrongdoing. To what extent is politics playing a role in the investigation against Uribe? What does the probe say about Colombia’s legal system? How could the case affect Colombia’s politics and President Iván Duque, an Uribe ally?


Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: “Last fall’s protests in Colombia, followed by the unity-forcing coronavirus pandemic, seemed to demonstrate that Colombian politics had issues at its core other than the country’s decades-long internal armed conflict. The Supreme Court’s order of house arrest for former President Álvaro Uribe has brought the conflict roaring back to the center of national debate, and with it, the deep cleavages and polarization regarding Uribe’s two terms as president and the nature of the peace accord struck with the FARC. The judicial and political issues around Uribe’s arrest are technically separate, but in practice form part of the same red-hot miasma. Uribe and his lawyer are accused of witness bribery and procedural fraud in a separate case involving left-wing Senator Iván Cepeda. The Supreme Court—the only body in Colombia with authority to prosecute sitting members of Congress—ordered Uribe’s house arrest based on the apparent concern that he would repeat the crime of which he’s accused during the investigation. In the ensuing backlash, Uribe supporters, including President Iván Duque, contrast his arrest with the leniency accorded the FARC in the peace agreement, in which guerrilla leaders under…”

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