‘Embezzled health money ended up in political parties’ hands’

The former director of the recently repossessed Colombian health insurance company Saludcoop made donations to political parties with public money, according to the opposition Polo Democratico party.

Saludcoop Director Carlos Gustavo Palacino Antia allegedly made the donations through an affiliated cooperative, to the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party and the Radical Change Party, local media reported Friday.

According to the pronouncement made by the party, Palacino Antia gave approximately $33,000 (COP60 million) to the Liberal Party, $22,000 (COP40 million) to the Conservative Party and $16,000 (COP30 million) to the Radical Change Party.

The illegal donations were apparently made through Progressa, a financing and credit cooperative that formed part of Saludcoops’ administrative council.

The Polo Democratico also alleged that Enrique Vargas, brother of Interior and Justice Minister German Vargar Lleras, and a member of the leadership of Cafesalud, an affiliate of Saludcoop, donated around $55,000 (COP100 million) to the Radical Change Party in 2010.

Ex-senator and member of the Executive National Committee of the Polo Democratico, Jaime Dussan Calderon, has demanded that the leaders of each of the three parties give explanations regarding what the money was used for.

The Polo Democratico party has labeled the alleged corruption scandal in which the health insurance company was involved “Saludcoopolitica.”

Saludcoop was repossessed by the Colombian government on May 12, after irregularities were noted in the company’s financial records. The company is just one of a number being investigated in the major health care scandal that is estimated to have cost the state as much as $2.5 billion and endangered citizens’ rightful access to adequate health care.

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