Following the national celebration of Colombia’s bicentenary of independence in the department’s capital, Choco’s former governor Patrocinio Sanchez de Occa urged the department to demand its independence from Colombia.
According to Sanchez, “Choco would be better off without the unjust and selective persecution of Choco leaders.”
The suspended governor claims that past and present judicial investigations against him and his family members “are an affront to the people of Choco, whose democratically elected representative is silenced.”
“As the people of Choco know, the Sanchez family is perfectly capable of running the department, but is simply not allowed to by the national authorities,” Sanchez said.
According to the Choco politician, economic powers in Bogota are trying to steal the department’s gold, tropical wood, and coal from his family. “Why do the people of Choco not benefit from the department’s wealth?” the former governor and member of President-elect Juan Manuel Santos’ Partido de la U asked a handful of enthusiastic supporters, mostly relatives.
The governor was suspended and sentenced to 18 months in jail for embezzlement in March. Confusingly, Sanchez was allowed not to go to jail because his sentence was shorter than five years. Instead the Supreme Court ruled he had to pay a fine of COP10 million ($5,400). Following crimes committed as mayor of the department capital Quibdo between 2001 and 2003, the politician has already been sent to jail three times.
Sanchez’ brother Odin, a former house representative for the Choco department, is currently in jail awaiting trial for his alleged ties to paramilitary death squads, and the March 14 election of sister Astrid was annulled by the country’s Electoral Committee on grounds of fraud.
Sanchez’s sister Orlene is Choco’s education secretary, his other sister Siris is deputy director of the Health Department, and his sister Sony works for the Quibdo Mayor’s Office and has expressed her ambition to run in the next mayoral elections.
The Choco department has the highest poverty rates of Colombia despite impressive natural resources like gold and coal.
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