Are corrupt politicians plotting against Colombia’s ex-president?

Politicians who received bribes from Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht and Colombia’s banking giant Grupo Aval are allegedly trying to frame former President Juan Manuel Santos.

The convicted former allies of Santos would want to “retaliate” against the former president by accusing Santos of receiving illegal campaign contributions ahead of the 2014 elections.

Santos’ former campaign manager, Roberto Prieto, was sentenced to five years in prison in 2019 for accepting funds from Odebrecht and Grupo Aval in 2010.

Convicted Senator Bernardo Elias claimed that Santos “knew perfectly well” about alleged financial support from Odebrecht in 2014 in an interview with journalist Vicky Davila, a member of the Gnecco crime family, in 2019.

Convicted Senator Otto Bula, a business associate former former Presidents Alvaro Uribe‘s corrupt cousin Mario, made similar claims in 2017.

Uribe and former President Andres Pastrana, the political patrons of President Ivan Duque, immediately demanded investigations against their political arch enemy.

The revived criminal investigation

Prosecutor General Francisco Barbosa announced to “revive” the “Odebrecht Case” in February without investigating allegedly corrupt executives of Grupo Aval, which bankrolled Duque’s 2018 campaign.

Barbosa’s predecessor, controversial former chief prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez, warned the Supreme Court in 2018 already that Elias and imprisoned former Senator Musa Besaile were allegedly conspiring to frame Santos, newspaper El Espectador reported on Monday.

Late Congressman Juan Jose Garcia had warned Martinez of the alleged conspiracy after visiting his brother, convicted former Senator Alvaro Garcia, in Bogota prison La Picota, according to audio revealed on the newspaper’s website.

According to Martinez, Besaile told Garcia that he and Elias would seek to smear Santos.

Colombia puts Odebrecht bribery suspect in charge of infrastructure

The revived conspiracy theory

Elias testified in late February that Odebrecht’s former representative in Colombia, Eleuberto Martonelli, sought to finance Santos’ 2014 campaign to prevent an election victory of Uribe’s candidate, former Finance Minister Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.

According to Elias, Martonelli wanted to prevent the resignation of the former director of the National Infrastructure Agency (ANI), Luis Fernando Andrade in the event Santos would lose.

Ironically, Zuluaga was forced to abandon the 2017 primaries of Uribe’s far-right party after allegations that Uribe’s candidate received illegal support from Odebrecht in 2014.

The former finance minister admitted he and Duque met with Odebrecht executives in Brazil and negotiated support from one of the Brazilians’ PR consultants, but legally.

Andrade was absolved of all charges in December last year, unlike the former CEO of Grupo Aval subsidiary Corficolombiana who was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The chief prosecutor, one of Duque’s best friends, did not announce further investigations into the president’s corrupt campaign financier or allegedly corrupt political ally, but investigate the absolved former ANI chief again instead.

Duque’s political patron has been accused of use fabricated witness statements to legally harass political opponents since 2007.

Colombia puts Odebrecht bribery suspect in charge of infrastructure

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