President Alvaro Uribe’s comments in an interview on Caracol Radio on 23 February, accusing Carlos Lozano, the editor of the communist weekly Voz, of links with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), were condemned today by Reporters Without Borders, which said they had endangered Lozano.
“Does having communist sympathies make you an ally of the FARC?,” the press freedom organisation asked. “President Uribe seems to forget that Lozano was once appointed by the government as peace mediator with the guerrillas. Alas, this is not the first time Uribe has lost his temper with journalists who do not support him. This kind of remark is dangerous as it exposes the press to reprisals.”
Uribe called Lozano an “accomplice and spokesman” of the FARC. Lozano responded several times during the first week of March, saying he would hold Uribe responsible if anything happened to him. “The president’s comments are slanderous and reckless, and put my life and safety in danger,” he said. He said he was no longer in regular contact with the FARC high command, but he was in written contact with guerrillas, “as many journalists are, but all this is known by the government.”
Uribe’s comments have surprised the Colombian media, especially as Lozano was once used by the government as an emissary with the guerrillas, as former peace mediator Camilo Gómez pointed out. Lozano said: “I do not understand. If I am a criminal, why do government aides come looking for me to establish contacts with the FARC?”
Ramiro Bejarano, a former director of the military intelligence agency known as the Security Administration Department (DAS), told journalists: “Alvaro Uribe is trying to stigmatize all government opponents as criminals in order to cover up his own complicity with the paramilitary groups.” Some of Uribe’s associates are currently being prosecuted because of their ties with paramilitaries.
Lozano received death threats in 2005, at a time when Uribe was reacting harshly to criticism from journalists such as Hollman Morris of the public TV station Canal Uno about his policies towards the armed conflict.