Colombia’s new Congress president already facing accusations of corruption, parapolitics

Senator Jose David Name was elected president of Colombia’s Congress on Sunday while past accusations of corruption and paramilitary ties loomed in the background.

Name, originally from Colombia’s northwestern city of Barranquilla, was elected Congress president in a 94-7 vote, according to Colombia’s El Pais newspaper.

However, with an unusual public turnout in cities normally less participatory, Name’s Senate election had a taste of “mermelada,” according to Bogota’s Las2Orillas newspaper.

“Mermelada” in translation means jam. For Colombian politics, spreading the jam relates to spreading public funds, (i.e. tax money used to boost or help a candidates campaign) or to simply add votes when there aren’t any.

“Yes, it sounds incredible to suggest the government used tax payers’ money to subsidize corrupt politicians to pervert the electoral process (…) but it’s an allegation many commentators and politicians continue to insist is true,” Kevin Howlett, a political analyst with Colombia Politics told Colombia Reports.

MORE: ‘Corrupt Colombian congressmen received $1.5B in tax money for elections’

On this year’s list of  the biggest offenders of “spreading the political jam,” Name was not too far down.

Jose David Name received more than $11.5 million, according to Las2Orillas, which published a list of 20 Congress members and the amount of money used for their campaign through “mermalada.” From the 2010 elections, Name had a 3% increase in votes.

In addition, Name has another accusation under his belt. In 2012, Name was accused of having ties to the Northern Bloc of the now-defunct paramilitary group, the AUC, along with 11 other former officials.

MORE: Court orders investigation of 12 more (ex-)congressmen for paramilitary ties

The 12 suspected politicians had been mentioned as paramilitary collaborators by such AUC commanders as “Don Antonio,” “El Canoso,” and “El Gordo.”

Those 12 were added to the list of more than 135 former members of Congress investigated for the use of paramilitary death squads to get elected into Congress. The Supreme Court has sentenced 38 congressmen to prison since 2006.


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