One of the big winners in Sunday’s congressional elections is the controversial Party for National Integration (PIN), which won eight seats and is now the fourth largest force in the Senate.
The party has been criticized because many members have family ties or other links to former legislators who are currently in prison for their association with paramilitaries.
PIN members who won Senate seats in Sunday’s elections include Teresa Garcia Romero, who after winning 39,812 votes will represent the Sucre department in northern Colombia. Her brother was arrested in 2007 for involvement in a peasant massacre, conducted by the now-demobilized paramilitary group AUC, in the Bolivar department in 2000.
Another senator-elect, Hector Lopez for the Bolivar department, is the son of businesswoman Enilce Lopez, alias “The Cat.” She is currently under house arrest and being investigated for money laundering and supporting paramilitaries. With 69,304 votes, Lopez will enter office with one of the largest margins of victory in the party.
Following closely behind with 49,224 votes is PIN member Nerthink Aguilar, who has no prior political experience and will represent the Santander department. His father, a retired colonel, is being investigated for business links with paramilitaries.
The founder of PIN, Luis Alberto Gil, who is currently serving time in a Bogota prison for “parapolitics,” reportedly managed his wife’s Senate campaign from behind the scenes. Gil’s wife, Doris Clemencia Vega, won 32,198 votes, and will also represent the Santander deparment.
A trio of senators from the Valle del Cauca department will also hold seats for PIN. Juan Carlos Rizzetto, with 62,380 votes, reportedly received support from two ex-senators who form part of the “Valle clan,” a group of politicians linked to the Cali drug cartel and paramilitary groups.
One of Rizzetto’s main backers, Carlos Heney Abadia, was sentenced to prison for involvement in the 1994 presidential election scandal, when it was discovered that winning candidate Ernesto Samper’s campaign was partially funded by money from the Cali cartel.
The two other PIN senators from Valle, Carlos Arturo Quintero and Hemel Arturo Angulo, also won with 52,741 and 37,691 votes respectively.
The PIN party obtained over 780,000 votes in total on Sunday.