Political leaders charged over south Colombia disaster that killed more than 300

Local politicians are responsible for the death of at least 336 people in the southern Colombian town of Mocoa for failing to implement measures that could have prevented a flooding disaster, according to the prosecution.

Consequently, Putumayo Governor Sorrel Aroca, Putumayo Mayor Jose Antonio Castro and former Mayor Elver Porfidio will have to stand trial on culpable homicide charges.

The political leaders “omitted preventive measures” and “disregarded their position as guarantor that obligated them to act with diligence to protect the lives of the people settled in risk areas,” Prosecutor Fabio Espitia told the Supreme Court.

Indolence, negligence and imprudence in regards to prevention obligations may not remain in impunity.

Prosecutor Fabio Espitia

The criminal charges followed an avalanche that destroyed large parts of Mocoa on March 31, and left 336 dead and 100 missing.

The Mocoa disaster left much of the town destroyed.

The political leaders allegedly ignored warnings by the regional environmental authority about the pending risks of a disaster.

According to the prosecution, environmental authority Corpoamazonia had warned about the construction of houses in the disaster area because of the risk of avalanches.

There was a high probability of a natural disaster of such magnitude, because the degree of imminent threat, vulnerability and danger of the population near the watersheds was known.

Prosecutor Fabio Espitia

Despite the scientific warnings, the Disaster Risk Management Plan and a system of early warnings were not activated by the Putumayo Governor’s Office and the Mocoa City Hall.

Prosecutor Fabio Espitia

The local politicians face a maximum prison sentence of nine years if convicted of the culpable homicide charges.

Sorrel Aroca, dubbed “the governor with the hardest job in Latin America” last year, could go to prison for neglect. (Image credit: Putumayo Governor’s Office)

Aroca, Castro and Profidio will have to appear before the Supreme Court on Thursday.

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