Investigative journalists in Colombia are closing in on unmasking the scheme by Senator Iván Cepeda – the principal ally of the FARC in Colombia – to induce star witness testimony by a prison convict to mount a sham case against former President Álvaro Uribe.
New revelations came from a new witness who testified under oath in an administrative hearing and exposed another key element of the scheme used by Cepeda to provide Juan Guillermo Monsalve secret benefits in exchange for testimony against Uribe. He also revealed that Monsalve is actively blackmailing Cepeda, warning that he will retract his testimony against Uribe if he loses his cushy privileges he enjoys.
Testifying in an administrative hearing last week was Nicolas Jurado Monsalve, a former FARC guerrilla who shares a surname but has no relation to Cepeda’s star witness. Jurado described a scheme that was hatched after a now-infamous incident at the La Picota prison in 2014 that caused a major scandal in the country.
The incident was a raucous prison party illegally held by an inmate convicted of defrauding the Colombian state, where he hired a live band and served bottles of whiskey to his fellow prisoners. The party made national headlines after Semana published a video of the party which, upon examination, clearly showed Juan Guillermo Monsalve as one of the partygoers. After the report in 2014, attendees were punished by being transferred to other, harsher prisons in Colombia, and based on publicly available video evidence, Monsalve was due to be relocated. But that was a falsehood, Jurado now testified.
In fact, because of the match in surnames, Jurado was added to the transfer list as “Monsalve” while Cepeda’s star witness was secretly kept at La Picota where he was upgraded to a luxurious cell to himself, with a double bed and other amenities denied to others in the prison. Jurado recounts in an interview with NTN24 that Monsalve immediately connected with Cepeda and the FARC’s principal ally in Colombia halted the transfer.
Monsalve himself, in his testimony against Uribe, admitted that Cepeda would always intervene to ensure that he was never transferred from La Picota, which corroborates Juardo’s recent revelations. Cepeda also admits that he spoke frequently with Monsalve.
Furthermore, Jurado tells that Monsalve always made it clear that if Cepeda ever failed him and he was transferred to another prison, he would walk back all of his testimony against Uribe.
These latest revelations further expose the pay-for-play relationship between Cepeda and his star witness to secure false testimony against Uribe. Recordings from an August 24 administrative hearing released last week detailed eight lies Monsalve told Judge Cesar Reyes and his associates in his testimony against Uribe. All of this incriminating evidence against Monsalve and Cepeda was suppressed by Reyes before he ordered Uribe’s arrest without charge on August 4. Uribe’s defense petitioned the Reyes twice to hear Jurado, but he was never allowed to testify.
Cepeda’s prison scheme to induce Monsalve’s testimony, and the serious allegation that his star witness is blackmailing Uribe’s accuser, must be investigated fully and with more transparency than the sham case mounted against Colombia’s former president. As more evidence comes to light and Cepeda’s actions in the case come under greater public scrutiny, international jurists concerned with the rule of law in Colombia should monitor developments very closely.