SEMANA, March 18, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The Police arrested him in Cúcuta, Norte de Santander Province, apparently on an outstanding warrant that has nothing to do with the case against the brother of former President Álvaro Uribe.
Juan Carlos Meneses was a Police commander in Yarumal. Right now he is before the JEP and accuses Santiago Uribe of being a member of “The 12 Apostles”.
Juan Carlos Meneses is the prosecution’s star witness in the case being pursued against Santiago Uribe for the alleged creation of paramilitary groups. The Police just recently arrested him. According to what SEMANA has been able to establish, it has to do with a warrant issued by a prosecutor in Buga where he is being investigated for allegedly being connected to the self-defense forces between the years 2001 and 2003. He is to be charged with the crimes of conspiracy to commit homicide, money laundering, illegal enrichment, and fuel theft.
He was captured yesterday when he went voluntarily to the National Police in Cúcuta, to verify whether or not there was an outstanding warrant. Surprisingly, the warrant was delivered at that moment, and he was arrested immediately.
His attorney, Carlos Toro, spoke with SEMANA, stating that the arrest was in relation to a case filed in 2009 and, because it was filed under the prior system, the prosecutors were summoning him to make a statement the next day.
Toro states that the prosecutors have no jurisdiction to take over the case, because Meneses has submitted to the JEP voluntarily, and the transitional Court has accepted his proposal to collaborate by telling the truth. The attorney requested that the JEP take action because all of these crimes are related to the armed conflict and are under the JEP’s jurisdiction.
It must be remembered that Juan Carlos Meneses is one of the principal witnesses against Santiago Uribe, the brother of former President Álvaro Uribe, and that he was released from prison after the ordinary justice system had sentenced him to 27 years for being part of the famous paramilitary group known as “The Twelve Apostles”.
And it should be noted that the JEP’s Definition of Legal Situations Branch granted him “temporary, conditional, and prospective liberty”, which means that in order to maintain this benefit, he will be required to furnish complete and valuable truthful information, as well as reparation for the victims.
The truthful information that Meneses is to provide before the JEP is a version that the brothers Álvaro and Santiago Uribe Vélez have been fighting for more than 20 years: that at their La Carolina ranch in Yarumal, Antioquia Province, and at their instance, the paramilitary group “The Twelve Apostles” was created.
The case in the JEP
The JEP’s order, 29 pages long, that allowed Meneses to be set free, gave him no more than ten days—in compliance with his commitment to tell the truth—to submit a written document containing the testimony he proposed to furnish, including any documents that could support his statement, plus anything that would contribute to the identification of all of the participants and decision makers involved in the crimes.
In addition, he will be required to articulate other aspects that the Court considers important, first: “Relations with public authorities, whether provincial or municipal. Plus any other government official that may have carried out actions intended to favor the control of territory by the self-defense forces, or to make that appear legitimate in the eyes of society, support them militarily and economically, or any other illegal act, especially in the province of Antioquia.”
The group known as “The Twelve Apostles” was created in 1994, when Álvaro Uribe Vélez was Governor of Antioquia. The shadow of that paramilitary organization has pursued Santiago Uribe Vélez for more than 21 years, including more than a year when he was incarcerated. The Uribe Vélez brothers have battled the designation, insisting again and again—sometimes successfully, sometimes not–, that they have nothing to do with that group that has been saddled with accusations of hundreds of crimes in northern Antioquia.
The ghost of “The Twelve Apostles”
Everything started on December 15, 1955 when Sr. Albeiro Martínez Vergara told the Attorney General’s Office in Medellín about the activities of an armed group in Yarumal. He claimed that it was made up of paramilitaries that called themselves “The Twelve Apostles, and that they operated with the blessing of the Police and the Army, and that their mission was to wipe off the map drug addicts, drug pushers, thieves, extortionists, and anybody that helped the guerrillas. The Attorney General’s Office commenced an investigation and collected testimony from a lot of people that lived in the area.
On November 3, 1996, they connected Santiago Uribe to the investigation. He was known for managing the La Carolina ranch and for being the brother of the then-Governor of Antioquia, Álvaro Uribe. Santiago gave testimony and he told the investigators that he didn’t know anything about any paramilitary group or about any of the acts that they were reviewing. And in 1999 the Attorney General’s
Office decided in his favor and issued an order discontinuing the investigation. They concluded that the version by a protected witness who connected Santiago with the paramilitary group was weak and inconsistent. The prosecutor assigned to the Superior Tribunal in Bogotá reached the same conclusion when the Inspector General’s Office appealed.