Santrich, who is under investigation in the US for a rather vague drug trafficking charge, was formally invited to take his seat in the House of Representatives by the Accreditation Committee on Monday.
Duque immediately called on the Inspector General to prevent the former guerrilla leader’s swearing in, insisting Santrich is a “mafioso” despite a war crimes ruling that cleared the FARC leader.
“How can one be okay that we have a mafioso being sworn in as a congressman in our country,” said Duque, whose far-right political patron, Senator Alvaro Uribe (Democratic Center), was an alleged associate of the now-defunct Medellin Cartel.
As part of the 2016 peace deal, FARC were granted five seats in each chamber of Congress for two congressional periods.
Santrich was supposed to lead FARC in the lower chamber last year, but was jailed after the US requested his extradition, claiming the virtually blind former ideologue conspired to traffic 10 tons of cocaine.
The war crimes tribunal rejected the extradition request last month in May due to insufficient evidence, and the Supreme Court ordered Santrich’s release last month after the State Council confirmed the FARC leader’s congressional privileges.
The DEA and former chief prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez are now under investigation over the debacle.
Opposition to his appointment
Santrich’s entry to congress generated widespread outrage from right-wing politicians, with two members of the Accreditation Committee of five abstaining from the vote, including Committee chairman Wadith Mazur whose Conservative Party is part of Duque’s minority coalition in Congress.
Wadith Mazur as a member of the Conservative party and Vicente Carreño of the Democratic Center made clear their conscientious objection to supporting this accreditation… I made clear my opposition after the leaking of the video in which Santrich is seen negotiating over a cocaine shipment. He violated the peace deal.
Inspector General Fernando Carrillo did not immediately respond to Duque’s call to suspend Santrich and would have to carry out his own investigation before deciding whether or not evidence would merit the FARC leader’s suspension from Congress.
House president Alejandro Chacon did not immediately swear Santrich in, reportedly claiming he was busy and asked his replacement, Atilano Giraldo of the center-right Cambio Radical Party, to proceed.
According to newspaper El Espectador, Giraldo is expected to swear in Santrich on Tuesday.
Both Chacon and Giraldo legally have five days to swear in the FARC’s leader in the house.
The Supreme Court will continue its investigation into Santrich and whether he conspired to traffic drugs as claimed by the US Department of Justice.