Colombian ambassador to Washington resigns over land theft scandal

Carlos Urrutia (R) in the Oval Office with US President Barack Obama

Colombia’s ambassador in Washington resigned after being implicated in an alleged case of land theft, President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday.

The ambassador, Carlos Urrutia, was involved in an ongoing scandal in which he continually faced questions regarding his involvement in the appropriation of some 100,000 acres of land throughout central Colombia.

MORE Colombia’s ambassador to US implicated in land theft scandal

In his resignation letter, Urrutia defended the legality of his actions.

“I trust the legality of the legal argument that support the acquisitions. Unfortunately the political discussion has focused more on the background and there is resistance to hearing legal reasons that conclude the acquisitions were executed under the rule of law.”

Prior to his role as ambassador Urrutia was a major shareholder of the law firm Brigard & Urrutia.

According to Senator Jorge Robledo, a vocal opponent of the ambassador, Brigard and Urrutia fraudulently helped multinationals acquire ownership of approximately 100,000 acres of land throughout Colombia.

Robledo sought clarification over Urrutia’s role in these acquisitions in a letter dated June 21, in which he claims violations of the law began in August 14, 2009 when Urrutia was in control of the firm.

Robledo continued to pressure Urrutia and, in a subsequent letter dated July 22, questioned the ambassador’s role in the financing of Juan Manuel Santos’ presidential campaign.

Colombia’s agricultural lands have long been center of criminal activity and armed conflict. For decades, paramilitary and guerrilla groups displaced farmers from their plots to subsequently sell these lands legally with the help of middlemen and corrupt officials. After taking office in 2010, President Juan Manuel Santos vowed to return these lands to their rightful owners.


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