However, diplomats also came across accusations that tarnished that reputation.
Mr. Vélez, the senator who said Mr. Uribe’s campaign was financed by the Ochoa drug family, told diplomats about a meeting that was arranged in the 1990s between Mr. Uribe and two other politicians and the wife of Mr. Escobar. The meeting had been secret until Mr. Escobar published a letter about it, and the diplomats wanted to know how it had come about.
Mr. Vélez said Mr. Escobar had used the Ochoas, lieutenants in Mr. Escobar’s Medellín Cartel, to broker the meeting “to open a communication channel to” César Gaviria, Colombia’s then-president, as a personal favor to them.
Asked by embassy officials about the meeting, Mr. Uribe said it had occurred and that he had expected to meet Mr. Escobar’s mother, not his wife, to discuss Mr. Escobar’s surrender, one cable said. “He absolutely rejects any thoughts of dialogue or concessions to Escobar,” diplomats wrote.
In another cable from March 1993, diplomats raised doubts about Mr. Uribe, citing his connection to Ernesto Samper, who became Colombia’s president in 1994. The cable said “there is substance to rumors” that Mr. Samper, Mr. Uribe and a third politician linked to Mr. Samper were linked to drug traffickers.
“Rumors of the involvement of these three with narcotics traffickers abound,” the cable said, adding that they believed Mr. Samper, if elected, would be soft on drug traffickers.
Diplomats were puzzled about the information they received, as Mr. Uribe met with them repeatedly to discuss plans for stopping drug trafficking.
A cable from July 1993 said: “Senator Uribe has proved an enigma to the embassy — his family ties to narcos (he is a cousin to the Ochoas) plus rumors from credible contacts taint him, but past declarations against the traffickers and vehement protestations to the embassy,” wrote diplomats, “say otherwise.”
A March 1995 cable describes information diplomats received around 1992 about an unsuccessful attempt by Mr. Uribe to nominate “a person associated with a known narcotics trafficking family” as his party’s candidate for mayor of Medellín. When that effort failed, Mr. Uribe then tried to nominate an uncle of Mr. Escobar, which was “also shot down,” the cable said.