A mining contract signed in July by Governor Sergio Fajardo grants Manuel Antonio Mesa, husband of Beatrice White, the head of the Ministry of Citizenship, exclusive rights to explore and mine more than 59 acres in northern Antioquia.
According to Jaime Cardenas, the lawyer who filed the complaint, it is illegal to award state contracts to spouses of high-ranking public officials.
“I don’t know if he acted in bad faith,” Cardenas said of Fajardo, “but he first had to know who Mr. Mesa was, and what it was he was signing.”
Mr. Cardenas says the purpose behind the complaint and the subsequent investigation by the Prosecutor General’s Office is “to see if the governor crossed the line of what is legal [and what is] illegal.”
Despite the accusations, the secretary of the Mining Department, Claudia Cecilia Cadavid, pointed out that the contract was awarded in 2010 before Fajardo took office. The current administration was required to sign the grant regardless of who the beneficiary was.
“It is just a coincidence that the beneficiary is the spouse of an official,” Cadavid said.
According to El Tiempo however, Mesa is a close personal friend of the governor.
Gerardo Emilio Duque, a mining law expert and former Antioquia Mining Secretary, said the governor may have committed an impeachable offense.
“Entering into a contract with a relative of the administration…is sanctioned by the penal code…Fajardo should have analyzed it and returned it [unsigned],” said Duque.
It was actually the governor’s office itself that first brought this potential scandal to light. Last year during his gubernatorial campaign, Fajardo ran on an anti-corruption platform and once elected, he implemented communication strategies to make public finances more transparent.