Arias to be Colombian ambassador to Rome

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos accepted the resignation of Colombian ambassador to Rome Sabas Pretelt de la Vega, who is standing trial on corruption charges, and replaced him with Andres Felipe Arias, who is also under investigation for corruption.

Pretelt is accused of bribing former Congress members Yidis Medina and Teodolindo Avendaño to approve a constitutional change to allow former President Alvaro Uribe to stand for re-election in 2006. Both lawmakers have been convicted for accepting bribes from Pretelt and his colleague, former Health Minister Diego Palacio.

The Colombian inspector general convicted Pretelt of bribery, and banned the official from holding public office for twelve years.

Colombia’s new ambassador to Italy is also under criminal investigation. Arias is accused of having paid large government subsidies, intended for poor farmers, to wealthy families, beauty queens, and paramilitaries. Arias’ successor as agricultural minister, Andres Fernandez, admitted that a number of the subsidy’s recipients were financial supporters of a referendum to allow Uribe to run for re-election in 2010. This referendum was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that it broke financial and congressional regulations.

After the failure of the referendum, Arias was accused of receiving money from subsidy beneficiaries to finance his own presidential campaign.

Arias was called for questioning by the Prosecutor General’s Office on Tuesday to defend himself against the corruption charges.

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