On September 27, 2010, Colombian Senator Piedad Córdoba was removed from her senate seat. The country’s Inspector General provided evidence that supported the long held claim by high ranking Colombian officials that Ms. Cordoba had close ties to the narco-terrorist group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The decision removing Cordoba from office also forbids her from holding any public office for eighteen years.
In a statement, Colombia’s Attorney General Alejandro Ordoñez explained that this sanction applies to Córdoba “for collaborating and promoting the illegal armed group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.” He stated that Cordoba clearly exceeded the duties specified in the authorization given to her by the Colombian government as an official mediator for the release of hostages. According to the charges [PDF], she advised the FARC to send voice recordings instead of video footage of the insurgent group’s hostages as “proofs of life” in order to improve their strategy. The evidence against the now former senator consists of emails and letters found in the computers of slain commander “Raul Reyes,” who was killed on March 1 of 2008. They identify Córdoba by her aliases of ‘Teodora’, ‘Teodora Bolivar’ and ‘La Negra.’ The documents allegedly show that her exchanges with the group’s leaders were more than friendly.
For many locals, the decision to dismiss Cordoba could not have come sooner. The former senator has been known for her ties to the FARC for years. Mrs. Cordoba is also a close friend of Hugo Chavez and both have worked tirelessly to overthrow the government of Colombia in order to take power and then give the FARC a principal role. It has been suspected that Cordoba receives money from Caracas in order to continue her support of the FARC and Chavez.
Colombia has long stood as a stronghold against Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. Bogota’s progress against the FARC represents a major obstacle in his pursuit of integrating more countries under his umbrella. He knows the only way he can endlessly get away with illegally grabbing power and money is if the U.S. is kept at bay. Chavez wants the FARC to become a legalized political party with representation. He already has the loyalty of Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Cuba, and Nicaragua who have become dependant on Mr. Chavez’s handouts and oil. In addition, many corrupt politicians and leaders have become accustomed to the gifts they receive from Venezuela in exchange for their support. Other countries and international bodies such as the OAS have preferred to appease Chavez and rarely raise any protest against his dictatorial ways. Only a few openly confront Chavez and the most successful is Colombia. That is why Chavez and the FARC want its government destroyed.
To achieve this, the Venezuelan leader sought powerful allies within the Colombian government that could provide him with invaluable information and give him a powerful and visible voice for his cause. Piedad Cordoba is well respected by the international community and is an outspoken “human rights” activist, which gives her credibility in international forums and organizations. The socialist and leftist movements love her and portray her as an angel who wants to help in freeing the hostages held by the FARC. She even was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, by former Nobel Peace Prize winner, Argentinean writer Adolfo Perez Esquivel. She did not win.
Who is Piedad Cordoba?
Piedad Esneda Córdoba Ruiz (born January 25, 1955) is a Medellin native of mixed white and Afro-Colombian parents and the leader of the “Poder Ciudadano Siglo XXI” political movement. She has been a senator in the Colombian legislature for four terms from 1994 to 2010, and was a Member of the Chamber of Representatives from 1994 to 1994. She was removed from her seat in 2005 for fraud.
In 1999 she was kidnapped by the paramilitary group called the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). After several weeks she was freed and exiled with her family in Canada. After more than one year in exile, Córdoba returned to Colombia, leaving her family behind to resume her political duties.
A Controversial Figure
Mrs. Cordoba has always been surrounded by controversy. She has been outspoken in her support for a political solution to the FARC problem, and supports giving them the right to representation in the Colombian political system. In addition, she has legally defended several members of the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN). She was also an overt opponent of President Alvaro Uribe and even attended international forums to publicly criticize and condemn her own government. Case in point, three years ago, on March 11, 2007, she was invited to a symposium in Mexico City called Los Partidos Políticos y una Nueva Ciudad (Political parties and a new city) which was supported by the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN). Córdoba generated controversy after declaring that “the progressive governments of Latin America should break their diplomatic relations with Colombia” and also that Alvaro Uribe was a “paramilitary”. Córdoba was later judicially denounced for treason after making these declarations, a charge which is currently being investigated by Colombia’s Supreme Court.
And just two months ago, Córdoba asked The European Union to put pressure on newly elected Colombian president, Juan Manuel Santos on the subject of ending Colombia’s violent internal conflict. The senator asked the E.U. to push Santos towards dialogue with groups such as the FARC and the ELN, which Santos has recently said he would not do until the groups cease their violent attacks. “Knowing the situation with human rights in Colombia, I invite the E.U. to pressure Colombia and put more emphasis on the government to start a political dialogue,” said the Senator in a conversation with news agency EFE.
She became famous in 2007, when President Uribe appointed her as a mediator to help free some hostages held by the FARC. Soon after, she invited Hugo Chavez to join her in the mediation effort. Córdoba and Chavez met with Raul Reyes, spokesman and leader of the FARC, Rodrigo Granda, Ivan Marquez and other members as part of the negotiations. Photos of Córdoba, Chavez and the terrorists surfaced in an online website called Agencia Bolivariana de Prensa (ABP) which showed Córdoba in an amicable and cordial relationship with the FARC, receiving flowers, kisses and hugs. That mission did not accomplish its goal. On November 22nd President Uribe ended the mediation after Chávez broke with diplomatic protocol by placing a series of calls directly to the high command of the Colombian military.
Piedad Cordoba and the FARC: the Evidence
Colombia’s Inspector General announced that his office has compiled a list of charges against Senator Piedad Cordoba in relation to allegations that she collaborated with the FARC outside of the parameters of her role as a hostage release negotiator. The investigation stems from evidence found in dead FARC leader “Raul Reyes” files, which the Inspector General’s Office says suggest that the “Colombians for Peace” leader was involved in “FARC-politics.” Email correspondence between Cordoba and the FARC allegedly “contains elements that are not about humanitarian aid.”
Under the code name of “‘Teodora de Bolivar,” she would be one of twelve people mentioned as part of a potential transitional government set up by the FARC and Hugo Chavez in the event that they seized power in Colombia.
The emails show that during the failed attempt to rescue the hostages in 2007, she acted more as a FARC collaborator than like an official mediator, and that she contacted the group after her official mediation had ended. Mrs. Cordoba vehemently denies being Teodora, but every trip mentioned by ‘Teodora’ on her mails to the FARC matches one made by Mrs. Cordoba. In one email, ‘Teodora’ writes: “I leave for Washington on Tuesday, going for Sonia and Simon T”. The senator’s trip to D.C. and her meetings with the two FARC leaders (both of them extradited to the U.S. by Colombian authorities) were known.
The files also indicate that Córdoba would have received money from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to fund social projects.
She also appears to have collaborated with the defense on some of the FARC members’ court cases.
On another e-mail sent on June 14, 2007, two months before she was designated as a mediator by President Uribe, ‘Raúl Reyes’ asks a fellow FARC member to include Senator Córdoba on a list, in order that she receive FARC documents. In the same text, he also requests calling her by the name ‘Teodora.’
In a communication from September 1, 2007, ‘Raul Reyes’ tells ‘Iván Márquez’, another High Commander, “‘la negra’ is an important element for the future, given who she is and her proximity to the man”. He also says that she’s got “a good position about our organization”. The investigation concluded that “la negra” was, in fact, Piedad Córdoba.
Another document was found in which Reyes writes, “Piedad, with great energy, here expressed her thesis that without the existence and strength of the FARC there wouldn’t be any opposition in Colombia”. Reyes added that Córdoba had told him that she felt “fully identified” with the 12 points that the FARC thought necessary for a new government. On September 14, ‘Raul Reyes’ wrote to the whole High Command: “Piedad …. Is very happy and is considering the right moment to strengthen relations with the FARC in order to support a new government, where ‘la negra’ would be assisted by Chavez and where the FARC would have a principal role”.
Another email, from September 23, 2007, is even more damaging. Reyes wrote to Manuel Marulanda, Farc’s top leader at the time: “Piedad told me, asking for our discretion, that Chavez contributed 100 million pesos to social work in her district. If so, “it doesn’t seem impossible to get 250 million for our Plan”.
In another message of October 27, 2007, ‘Teodora’ makes another suggestion to Reyes: “we must support Chavez before December 2nd; he must win on his constitutional reform. So, I here respectfully dare to ask for these life proofs, so that my commander Chavez can show them to the world, as you would like to show them”. And then she concludes that she’s ready to meet “the entire High Command of the army of the people, which is to say the FARC.” [Piedad Córdoba: What’s the evidence? Revista Semana. October 6, 2010] Although the FARC did send the life proofs, the Colombian Army intercepted them.
In one e-mail, a FARC commander writes that Bolívar suggested delaying the release of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt because without the famous hostage in the rebels’ hands, the world would ignore the FARC. In another message, Bolívar downplayed Betancourt’s failing health after shocking photos of the sick prisoner were released in 2007. “Ingrid is skinny but she’s always been skinny,” Bolívar wrote. “She won’t die from that.”
It is important to point out that Interpol validated the files and later reported that the Colombian government had not manipulated them.
The Inspector’s office concluded in its sentence that both “collaboration with and promotion of the FARC wasn’t only made in the period between August 15 and November 21, 2007 (when Córdoba was officially authorized to make the contacts), but also earlier and later in the years 2007, 2008 and 2010”.
Córdoba rejected the Inspector General’s decision and accused him of “criminalizing humanitarian work.” She has announced that she will counter the decision and intends to prove her innocence.
Colombia’s Supreme Court President, Jaime Arrubla said that his judicial body has not seen conclusive evidence that Senator Piedad Cordoba is guilty of “FARC-politics.” However, many Colombians disagree with Justice Arrubla and accuse him of having a bias against the governments of Alvaro Uribe and Juan Manuel Santos for their strong hand against the terrorist groups FARC and ELN. Just in April of this year, Mr. Arrubla accused Colombia’s domestic intelligence agency, the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS) of “a state conspiracy” against the Court and that the magistrates are facing “the biggest mafia” that has operated in Colombia. Mr. Arrubla has long been at odds with President Uribe.
Their troubles began when the Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion which found that the Justice and Peace Law introduced by the government, that set the rules for the 2003-2006 disarmament of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitaries, was synonymous with impunity. Under the law, members of the paramilitary forces who took part in the demobilization process and gave a full confession of their crimes would receive a maximum sentence of eight years.
But the real confrontation between the Supreme Court and the government of Mr. Uribe began when the Court started to investigate the ties between politicians and the paramilitary groups. The Supreme Court has been after many members of Congress and even Uribe accusing them of having ties with the paramilitaries. Mr. Arrubla has now opened an investigation into Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez’s decision to ban Senator Piedad Cordoba from public office for her ties with the FARC.
Legal experts who have seen the documents say the evidence is heavily weighted toward Cordoba being Teodora Bolivar. The problem is that she is now portraying herself as a victim and some international leaders and even some media outlets are now publicly voicing their support for her.
But her behavior towards the FARC constitutes a crime and a serious breach of ethics especially given her position as a senator representing the Republic of Colombia. Former Deputy Justice Minister, Rafael Nieto commented: “There is no doubt that if she had acted the same way with the paramilitaries, she would be in jail.” In addition, some say that the way she has behaved with respect to her own country constitutes treason.
The evidence is there for everyone to see and the 140 – page document has been evaluated and combed through by many legal experts and politicians. According to Colombian law, it is illegal to have a connection with any terrorist group including the FARC. Mrs. Cordoba should not be above the law and the decision of the attorney general should be respected and obeyed.
THE AMERICAS REPORT
NANCY MENGES and
LUIS FLEISCHMAN, Editors
The Americas Report is the featured product of the Center for Security Policy‘s Menges Hemispheric Security Project. It features in-depth, original articles on subjects not regularly covered by the American press.
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