Colombia’s Congress announced on Monday it would investigate President Ivan Duque after claims by a fugitive politician that the president was in on election rigging.
While the House of Representatives’ Accusations Committee is notoriously ineffective in investigating presidents’ alleged criminal activities, the investigation is a major blow for Duque and his allies.
According to Caracol Radio, the opposition is considering filing an additional charge against Prosecutor General Francisco Barbosa for refusing to investigate alleged fraudsters not investigated by Congress or the Supreme Court.
The government has dismissed Merlano’s accusations as “fabrications” of “the dictatorship” of Venezuela where the former Conservative Party lawmaker was arrested last month.
While the accusation that Duque was informed about vote-buying is uncorroborated, other claims made by the president’s former congressional ally confirm corruption claims made since 2018.
Evidence of fraud that emerged during the elections was never investigated by the prosecution or electoral authorities, but may now be picked up by the congressional committee dominated by government critics.
- Representative Edward Rodriguez of the ruling Democratic Center party
- Representative Andres Calle of the independent Liberal Party
- Representative Wilmar Real of the opposition Green Alliance party
In court and in an interview with Semana columnist Vicky Davila, Merlano confirmed in detail how government contractors finance vote-buying in order to be granted public works for which elected officials are given a cut.
The Supreme Court announced it would broaden its investigation into Senator Arturo Char (Radical Change) and hear his former ally, Merlano, claiming the dynasty politician helped plot her escape from prison in October last year.
The senator of the almighty Char Clan from Barranquilla was already under investigation for his role in the election fraud that made Merlano the first and only politician to ever be convicted of vote-buying.
The prosecution, which is led by a long-time friend of the president, called the fugitive politician’s 20-year-old daughter to trial in an apparent retaliation.
The scandal is generously facilitated by Venezuela’s authorities, who broke off all diplomatic relations with Colombia after Duque’s support for an attempt to oust President Nicolas Maduro by the neighboring country’s opposition.