8. Had you any communication with any representatives, members or leaders of the FARC before you visited the United States in 2009 in order to induce testimony against former president Álvaro Uribe from prisoners in U.S. federal correctional facilities? Did you make or sanction sworn affirmations to the U.S. government in order to obtain permission to enter the United States asserting that you had not participated in criminal acts or aided terrorist organizations?
When questions normally arise about Senator Iván Cepeda’s infamous visit to the United States in 2009, they usually focus on the allegations from ex-paramilitary convict Juan Carlos “El Tuso” Sierra. The former gang member has sent a notarized statement to the Colombian Supreme Court of Justice saying that Cepeda visited him in a Washington, D.C., federal jail during that U.S. trip to suborn perjury from him as part of Cepeda’s efforts to incriminate former president Álvaro Uribe. These allegations are now the subject of a U.S. Congressional inquiry to U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
But former Congressman Connie Mack (R-FL) is focused on another disturbing question about that 2009 visit. Did Cepeda lie when answering several key security questions on his U.S. visa application for that trip? If the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) determines he did, then Cepeda could be permanently banned from entering the United States.
FACT: As Mack’s October 22 letter explained, there are many unanswered questions about Cepeda’s relationship with the FARC and its senior leadership in the years before he completed the visa application for the 2009 visit. We have explored these many questions for weeks on this website. In short – Cepeda may have provided assistance to the FARC previous to 2009. If he did, he lied on his U.S. visa application.
FACT: In 2009, the FARC was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.
FACT: The visa application form that Cepeda was required to submit – Form DS 160 (Version 2009) – includes very specific security questions that Cepeda must have answered “NO” to, or his application would have been refused. They include:
- Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in the United States or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities?
- Have you ever or do you intend to provide financial assistance or other support to terrorists or terrorist organizations?
- Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization?
The many questions posed by Mack are carefully constructed to reach a reasonable conclusion on this very important issue:
- What exactly was Iván Cepeda’s connection to the FARC before he obtained a U.S. visa to enter this country in 2009?
- Did that relationship, under U.S. law, constitute “membership” or “representation” in the FARC or within the broader network of organizations conspiring with the FARC as detailed in the U.S. federal indictments against Cepeda associates Jesus Santrich and Ivan Marquez?
- Did Cepeda’s relationship with the FARC before 2009 involve any form of “support” to them under U.S. law?
Simple answers have the potential to erase these doubts that are growing and escalating for U.S. officials, many of whom are learning about Cepeda for the first time.
But what stands out the most? Cepeda’s silence.