Colombia’s Supreme Court has done an admirable job prosecuting a complex corruption case against former government officials and allies of Alvaro Uribe, the country’s ex-president.
However, the recent removal of the special prosecutor in the case, Ivan Velasquez, just as it closes in on Mr. Uribe’s former high-level aides, is an unwelcome reversal.
If the South American country of 46 million is to re-establish the credibility of its democratic institutions, Mr. Velasquez must be allowed to continue to pursue justice in this case, known as the “para-politics” scandal.
“The clean-up of the house has been championed by this judge and his departure is a setback for democracy,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, with Human Rights Watch.
Mr. Velasquez was removed by the Supreme Court, and not by President Juan Manuel Santos, who has supported the human rights investigation since he took office in 2010. Already, more than 50 ex-politicians have been prosecuted and sentenced for their links to illegal armed groups known as para-militaries, and for illegal wiretapping. Mr. Uribe’s brother, cousin and former chief of staff all face charges. His former intelligence chief fled the country before charges against him were filed. Mr. Uribe has denied any knowledge of the conspiracy.
While Mr. Santos cannot interfere in the judicial process, he needs to reassure Colombians that his government remains committed to justice and to supporting Mr. Velasquez, who has been the victim of smear campaigns in the past.
Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Santos has shown a willingness to end the country’s internal conflict, and even to negotiate with Marxist rebels, known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who have waged war for more than half a century.
His commitment to peace should extend to public support for the special prosecutor who has played a crucial role in exposing the abuse of power that permeated Mr. Uribe’s government.