Colombia’s Supreme Court said Thursday that it had opened an election fraud investigation against former President Alvaro Uribe amid a growing scandal not seen since the 1990s.
The investigation will look into evidence that Uribe and Duque teamed up with a mafia boss to rig the president’s 2018 election in the northern Cesar and La Guajira provinces.
The scandal that followed the revelations is of a proportion not seen since the so-called “Process 8,000” that followed Cali Cartel contributions to former President Ernesto Samper’s 1994 presidential campaign.
Uribe on the defensive as mafia boss linked to personal assistant
Following the initial report by investigative journalist Gonzalo Guillen, a second investigative journalist, Julian Martinez, revealed evidence on Thursday indicating that Uribe’s personal assistant coordinated vote-buying with Jose Guillermo Hernandez, who laundered money for jailed crime lord Marquitos Figueroa.
The Supreme Court investigation follows criminal charges filed by Guillen on Wednesday.
The alleged involvement of President Ivan Duque is creating an institutional crisis in the Prosecutor General’s Office, which is supposed to investigate Duque, but led by Francisco Barbosa, a long-time personal friend of the president.
The revelations partly confirm claims made by fugitive politician Aida Merlano, who also accused Duque and Uribe of personally being involved in vote-buying.
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Investigations or cover-ups?
Apart from the Supreme Court, the prosecution, Congress’ Accusations Committee, the National Electoral Council (CNE) have opened investigations into the mounting claims of fraud.
Of all these investigations, only the Supreme Court has a history of taking investigations like this seriously.
The Accusations Committee to the House of Representatives has only once come to a verdict in its 29-year history and was the body that controversially closed the investigation against Samper over the Cali Cartel campaign contributions.
The investigation of the National Electoral Council is compromised because one of the three investigators is magistrate Jaime Luis Lacouture, Duque’s former campaign manager in La Guajira where Hernandez said to be buying votes.
The Prosecutor General’s friendship with Duque is making any independent investigation impossible, which could lead the Supreme Court to appoint a special prosecutor.
The president, whose popularity had already reached a record low, has avoided all contact with the press and has made no statements about the biggest scandal since he took office.