The very legitimacy of Colombia’s government came into question on Thursday when both the Supreme Court and election authorities began looking into claims the 2018 elections were rigged.
Colombia’s Supreme Court opened a new criminal investigation into a member of one of the country’s most powerful clans for his alleged participation in the jailbreak of former Senator-elect Aida Merlano, who was convicted of election fraud in the 2018 congressional elections.
W Radio reported on Thursday that the National Electoral Council (CNE) was looking into magistrate Luis Guillermo Perez additional request to investigate Duque’s campaign, which allegedly took part in rigging the presidential election that same year.
Opposition politicians filed criminal charges against the president before the Accusations Chamber of Congress on Thursday while the runner up in the elections, leftist Senator Gustavo Petro, called on his supporters to take to the streets.
If the allegations are true, and we all know that they are, the president is exercising an illegitimate mandate… It would prove no more or less than what we all know, that the majority of those who make laws are criminals, that a law badly made from crime is not legitimate, that a democracy cannot be built in this way and that, if we continue like this, we will not be able to construct a great nation, and much less peace.
Senator Gustavo Petro (Humane Colombia)
From Venezuela with Love II: fugitive coalition politician confirms claims Colombia’s 2018 election were rigged
Kicking the house of cards
Merlano dropped a nuclear bomb on Duque and his allies on Monday in an extensive interview with Semana columnist Vicky Davila from Venezuela, where the politician was arrested last month.
In the two-and-a-half hour interview, Merlano in detail explained how the clan of Senator Arturo Char (Radical Change) allegedly plotted her prison break and that Duque knew the presidential elections were rigged in his favor.
We’re dealing with an entirely corrupt system that lacks any legitimacy. What Aida is saying over there demonstrates or confirms what we all thought and we begin to realize that elections are defined here by money that comes from corruption. Obviously we are facing an illegitimate government.
House Representative Inti Asprilla (Green Alliance)
The Char Clan, again
Char was already under investigation over his alleged involvement in the election fraud that got Merlano convicted, but will now also be investigated over his alleged role in helping his former ally escape, the court said in a press release.
The government has dismissed the fugitive Conservative Party politician’s claims as “a fabrication” of “the dictatorship” of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The Supreme Court is not so sure and wants to hear both the fugitive politician and her former patron over the prison break in October last year.
In the opinion of the investigating magistrate, the accusations against Senator Arturo Char regarding the events of October 1, formulated by Aida Merlano in the interview granted to journalist Vicky Davila, would be closely related to the conduct of possible electoral corruption in the preliminary investigation against the congressman.
The CNE magistrate asked his colleagues that Merlano’s claims over presidential election rigging be “analysed for the benefit of an investigation,” stressing that “a number of factual aspects were registered that fall within the powers attributed to the National Electoral Council.”
Chief prosecutor’s credibility in shatters
The Prosecutor general’s Office said Thursday it would not send investigators to Caracas to hear Merlano’s testimony, claiming the broken relations between the neighboring countries made this impossible.
The Supreme Court, however, said it would take “the necessary administrative steps with the authorities of Venezuela, the country where she was recaptured” to set up a Skype call and hear the fugitive former congresswoman.
The scandal has destroyed the credibility of chief prosecutor Francisco Barbosa, whose office called Merlano’s 20-year-old daughter to trial on March 3 in an apparent retaliation.
Legal experts had already expressed their doubts about Barbosa’s independence, because he’s close friends with Duque.
These concerns grew even bigger on Saturday when Duque inaugurated his buddy, but Barbosa was forced to let go of his deputy because the president’s political patrons didn’t like him.
The chief prosecutor hasn’t even been in office for a week and has already lost all credibility and the reputation he had built up as a scholar for years.
We just wanted the new Prosecutor General to be independent of the Government, because in Colombia the prosecutor is not part of the executive branch, as is the case in other countries, but an autonomous judicial officer.
Judicial expert and columnist Rodrigo Uprimmy
Is Colombia’s house of cards coming down?
The National Registry, which is responsible for the counting of votes, has refused to investigate fraud claims despite the evidence of widespread corruption that emerged before the 2018 elections already.
Of the six congressmen who were tied to corruption fraud, only Merlano’s case was effectively prosecuted.
After literally fucking her way up the Gerlein Clan hierarchy since she was 16, she became the first and only member of Congress in history to go to prison on vote-buying charges in September last year.
Two weeks after receiving her 15-year sentence, she jumped out of a dentist office where she had a teeth-whitening appointment with more than 20 years of inside knowledge of corruption and other forms of organized crime.
Merlano’s first interview has already led to one Supreme Court investigation, calls for investigation in the National Electoral Council and criminal charges against the president.
The fugitive politician has yet to reveal the evidence she claims to have in order to corroborate her claims, making it unclear how much of Colombia’s notoriously corrupt political system will still be standing once she’s done.