Argentine police has defused two bombs discovered in the ceiling of a Buenos Aires theatre, and authorities say they were timed to explode during an appearance there by Alvaro Uribe, the former Colombian president.
The bombs that were discovered on Tuesday were hidden inside the power supply for a ceiling light in the second floor of the Gran Rex theatre.
They were attached to a cellphone with an alarm set for 4:30pm local time on Wednesday, just when Uribe would have joined a post-speech cocktail with business executives and other important guests, investigative Judge Norberto Oyarbide said.
"It is a simple device but it could have caused deaths," Oyarbide said. "The damage to Argentina would have been huge."
He credited the theatre's maintenance and security staff for spotting the devices.
Oyarbide spoke after personally surveying the scene where federal police bomb experts were searching for clues inside the historic theater on Corrientes Avenue in the heart of the Argentine capital.
Uribe, who served as Colombia's president in 2002-10, had been invited to speak about his country's transformation as part of a symposium for executives organised by WOM-Latam, a private company that organises leadership seminars and sold tickets to the cocktail party for more than $500 each.
Oyarbide said that "God willing," the seminar, including Uribe's speech, would proceed as scheduled.
In an email sent earlier to the Associated Press news agency, Uribe said he was unaware of the bomb threat.
During his presidency Uribe secured a controversial peace deal with Colombian right-wing paramilitary forces that led to the demobiliSation of 30,000 fighters, and launched peace talks with the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas.
However, the country's largest leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), rejected negotiations with Uribe and derided him as a warmonger.
Several foreign leftists, including at least one from Argentina, have reportedly spent time with the FARC guerrillas, according to news reports.
Uribe's tough policies against Colombia's leftist guerrillas resulted in a wave of complaints of human-rights abuses against the armed forces.
While Uribe left office with high approval ratings, details about domestic spying of journalists, judges and opposition politicians, as well as corruption among supporters, have emerged in recent years.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|