Colombia News | Colombia Reports Latest news from Colombia 2018-11-14T15:07:23Z https://colombiareports.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Stephen Gill <![CDATA[Audio reveals Colombia’s chief prosecutor’s knew about Odebrecht bribery and people start dying]]> https://colombiareports.com/?p=189984 2018-11-14T13:33:44Z 2018-11-14T12:00:29Z Colombia’s chief prosecutor knew of Odebrecht’s bribery practices since 2015 when he was the legal adviser of the Brazilian engineering firm subsidiary, according to a dead key witness. Television new program Noticias…

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Colombia’s chief prosecutor knew of Odebrecht’s bribery practices since 2015 when he was the legal adviser of the Brazilian engineering firm subsidiary, according to a dead key witness.

Television new program Noticias Uno released damning audio files of Jorge Enrique Pizano that put Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez at the center of the scandal after the death of the former comptroller of Corficolombiana, a partner of Odebrecht at the time of the alleged bribery practices.

Martinez at the time was the legal adviser of Colombia’s richest man, Luis Carlos Sarmiento, who also partnered with Odebrecht to obtain the contract for the construction of the “Ruta del Sol” project.

Two days after the death of Pizano, who had been suffering terminal cancer, the son of the comptroller unexpectedly also died, reportedly after drinking a bottle of water that had been poisoned with cyanide in his father’s office.

Martinez’ deputy prosecutor, Maria Paulina Riveros, announced on Tuesday she considered both deaths suspicious and announced a criminal investigation.


The United States vs Colombia’s chief prosecutor


The recordings that put Martinez in the center of the scandal

Until his death, Pizano was a key witness in the corruption case because he acted as financial comptroller on the tarnished Ruta del Sol highway project that had illegally been acquired by the Brazilian company.

Pizano claimed that he met with Martinez in August 2015 and surrendered documents highlighting possible corruption practices of the engineering giant that he had come across as financial comptroller.

Suspicious of Martinez’ own involvement in corruption, he recorded the meeting and established in the recordings that Martinez was aware of the suspicions since 2013.

Martinez’ on tape

This is a bribe, man. How much is it worth? Did you give this shit to anyone?

Now you’re in it, and the only idiot who is going to get in trouble is you, asshole, hahaha.

A year after Martinez found out about the corruption of his associate he was appointed chief prosecutor at the request of former President Juan Manuel Santos, but didn’t open an investigation until after the United States justice department revealed Odebrecht’s bribery practices in Colombia.


The United States vs Colombia’s chief prosecutor


And suddenly people start dying

Pizano asked Noticias Uno not to broadcast his interview, which was recorded on August 9, 2017, or the 2015 audio recordings until after he either had left the country in protective custody or has died.

The broadcaster fulfilled his wishes and released the recordings casting further doubt about the chief prosecutor’s involvement in top-level corruption on Sunday, the day that Pizano’s son also died.

In an effort to defend himself, Martinez said on Tuesday that he was merely speaking to Pizano by “virtue of an old friendship” and not as a lawyer during the meetings, reported Noticias Uno.

Opposition Senator Jorge Robledo, who has denounced Martinez’ alleged involvement in corruption for years, reiterated that the chief prosecutor should step down.

“I will come to the Senate plenary to ask for another debate this year on the corruption of Ruta del Sol 2 (Odebrecht-Grupo Aval) and the shameless role of prosecutor Martinez Neira, whose absence of ethical values ​​and cynicism require him to resign immediately,” said Robledo on his Twitter account.


Odebrecht to sponsor anti-corruption summit in Colombia


Mr. Odebrecht?

The US Justice Department announced in December 2016 that Colombian officials and politicians had received bribes from Brazilian engineering giant Odebrecht between 2009 and 2014.

The claim came almost nine months after a Brazilian judge convicted Odebrecht director Marcelo Odebrecht for his firm’s widespread corruption practices in his home country.

Colombia’s Supreme Court elected Martinez at the recommendation of President Juan Manuel Santos in June that year, three months after the sentencing of the Brazilian CEO Marcelo Odebrecht.

The accusations almost immediately embarrassed the chief prosecutor, whose law firm had been hired by Odebrecht’s subsidiary in Colombia while it was bribing officials to obtain the Ruta del Sol II project.

Moreover, Martinez signed off on the construction of the corruption-ridden project in 2014 after Santos appointed him Minister for the Presidency, a post that did not exist before.

Despite the apparent conflicts of interest, the chief prosecutor has refused to withdraw from the criminal investigation that has implicated some of Colombia’s most powerful politicians and corporations, including the president.


Corrupt AND audacious? Odebrecht sues Colombia for $1.3 billion


Odebrecht’s tentacles in Colombia

The Odebrecht scandal has rocked Colombia’s political establishment with shocking levels of corruption between politicians and various high-ranking officials revealed in the investigation.

Odebrecht financed former President Juan Manuel Santos’ 2010 election campaign and allegedly the 2014 campaign of both Santos (U Party) and his main rival, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga (Democratic Center) while it was vying for major infrastructure projects like the so-called “Ruta del Sol,” a major highway connecting the capital Bogota to the Caribbean coast.

President Ivan Duque traveled to Brazil with Zuluaga to meet Odebrecht officials ahead of the alleged bribe. Both he and Santos have denied any wrongdoings.

Odebrecht has admitted in US courts to spending more than $788 million in 12 countries in Latin America and Africa.

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Adriaan Alsema https://colombiareports.com <![CDATA[Colombia’s FARC members massively deserting reintegration process and rearming]]> https://colombiareports.com/?p=189993 2018-11-14T15:07:23Z 2018-11-14T11:00:11Z Some 6,500 former guerrillas of the FARC have abandoned their reintegration camps and approximately 2,000 have rearmed, according to a source close to Colombia’s peace process. Only 1,500 former FARC…

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Some 6,500 former guerrillas of the FARC have abandoned their reintegration camps and approximately 2,000 have rearmed, according to a source close to Colombia’s peace process.

Only 1,500 former FARC guerrillas of the 8,000 registered to be living in reintegration camps by United Nations peace observers in early 2017  are still there, according to the peace monitors’ latest report.

It is uncertain where the remaining FARC members are, but between 1,800 and 2,200 of the FARC’s 14,000 members have rearmed, a source close to the process told Colombia Reports.

More than 30 leaders are missing, but have verbally reaffirmed their commitment to the peace process and accuse the government of violating the agreement.

Is Duque ripping the peace deal to shreds as promised by his party?

Some 14,000 people formally demobilized with the far-left FARC group, either as guerrilla or militant, according to official figures. (Image: United Nations).

The mass abandonment and rearmament followed chronic failures by the state to facilitate the peace process and threats by President Ivan Duque to disregard the 2016 peace deal with the country’s oldest guerrilla group.

Furthermore, state forces have failed to take control over former FARC territory which led to a power vacuum, the mass killing of social leaders and growing fears of violent retaliation among demobilized members of the FARC, which is now a political party.

The desertion of FARC members spiked after Colombia’s controversial Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez ordered the arrest of a former guerrilla ideologue on unsubstantiated American claims he was conspiring to traffic drugs.

“Ivan Marquez” (L) and “El Paisa.” (Image: FARC) and more than two dozen other FARC leaders went into hiding after the arrest of “Jesus Santrich.”

What went wrong?

Santos and the FARC took four years to negotiate a bilateral ceasefire and the FARC’s transition to politics and civilian life.

The peace process has received fierce resistance since these talks. The armed conflict between the FARC and the traditional elite over control over the state has not just left millions of victims, but also thousands alleged war criminals and tens of thousands alleged collaborators.

Former presidents, top military commanders, media moguls and thousands in the business sector could be linked to the victimization of more than 8.5 million people who were victimized in the war that began in 1964.

Community leaders have taken an active role in seeking peace for their communities, but at least 400 of them have been assassinated during the peace process. (Image: UN Photo)

Under the leadership of former President Alvaro Uribe, who is investigated on charges related to war crimes, traditional conservative elites and the far-right successfully campaigned to sink an initial peace deal through a referendum in October 2016.

Once the peace deal was revised and approved by Congress and the peace process began in December 2016, the government began failing some of the most basic elements of the FARC’s demobilization, disarmament and demobilization process.

Uribe continued his resistance against the peace deal negotiated by former President Juan Manuel Santos, and proposed junior candidate Ivan Duque forward as “his” candidate in the 2018 elections.

Illegal economies that long thrive in lawlessness, like drug traffickers and land thieves, have violently protected their interests and opposed the peace process.

Indigenous groups claim that the government is breaking all kinds of agreements while failing to protect them from illegal armed groups. (Image: ONIC)

The arrest of “Jesus Santrich” and the electoral victory of Duque sank guerrillas’ confidence in the peace process, and many rearmed. Those still in the peace process have left their reintegration camps amid government failures to facilitate their reintegration into society.

The FARC leadership, leftist and moderate sectors, and the United Nations have urged Duque to execute the process and to continue talks with remaining ELN guerrillas, but to little effect.

The government reportedly also lost contact with AUC dissident group AGC, which offered to surrender to justice last year.

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Adriaan Alsema https://colombiareports.com <![CDATA[Bogota refuses entry to hundreds of victims from war-torn western Colombia]]> https://colombiareports.com/?p=189990 2018-11-13T22:40:25Z 2018-11-13T22:24:04Z Police outside Colombia’s capital on Monday retained hundreds of victims of ongoing armed conflict in the west of the country for two days, refusing them entry to Bogota until Monday.…

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Police outside Colombia’s capital on Monday retained hundreds of victims of ongoing armed conflict in the west of the country for two days, refusing them entry to Bogota until Monday.

The 500 members of three indigenous communities had walked 300 miles from the jungle region near the Panamanian border in the north of Choco to flee violence and attend a meeting with authorities.

The men, women and children were stopped by police outside the capital though, and left without food, water and blankets.

I don’t understand why they kept us since last night, we come from Choco so the national government would help us, would keep its word.

Marciano Paniama

Hunger and thirst after 300-mile walk

A day after the ONIC denounced that the police refused the victims’ freedom of movement, and the people had run out of food and water, police allowed the communities to pass.

We urgently request that the national government of Ivan Duque and the Mayor’s Office of Enrique Peñalosa provide the necessary guarantees for the indigenous peoples who arrive in Bogota. We also need them to show their willingness to talk in order to comply with the agreements already reached with these communities.

ONIC representative Aida Quilcue

The communities and the ONIC had convoked a meeting with national authorities for Tuesday about the displacement caused by ongoing combat between ELN guerrillas, rearming FARC members and AGC paramilitaries that is terrorizing the people in the border region.

The AGC, a dissident group from the AUC paramilitary organization, spurred much of the displacement after accusing the communities’ leaders of being FARC leaders.

“Government letting indigenous freeze to death”

(Image: ONIC)

Even after having ended their 300-mile trek and endured hunger and thirst on the way, the displaced peoples’ suffering was far from over after they arrived in Bogota.

According to ONIC, the government representatives did show up at the meeting in Hotel Inter on Tuesday morning. By 3PM, however, the rights group said that the government representatives refused to make sure the displaced peoples could have shelter or blankets while in Bogota.

The displaced people are from an area that is tropical rainforest while temperatures in Bogota can drop to around freezing point at night, which poses a major health risk for the displaced.

The war that never ended

The region in Choco where the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities live is of particular strategic importance for the illegal armed groups because of its drug and human trafficking routes to the Pacific coast and Panama.

National authorities have historically failed to assume territorial control over the border region, leaving the communities that live in the jungle area at the mercy of illegal armed groups that have been at war for years.

Duque has long rejected the peace process with the FARC and his administration has failed to continue with the execution of the peace process, which has skyrocketed the rearming of demobilized guerrillas, also in the north of Choco.

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Colombia Reports https://colombiareports.com/ <![CDATA[Engineering success: Chocó’s robotic school]]> https://colombiareports.com/?p=189986 2018-11-13T18:36:15Z 2018-11-13T18:36:15Z For many living in Colombia’s Pacific region, the idea of economic development seems almost impossible. This is something Jimmy Garcia, a 36-year-old systems engineer from Quibdó, wants to change. He…

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For many living in Colombia’s Pacific region, the idea of economic development seems almost impossible. This is something Jimmy Garcia, a 36-year-old systems engineer from Quibdó, wants to change. He is convinced that education is the key to sustainable development and uses his passion for technology to create opportunities for young people in Chocó, one of the most marginalized departments of the country.  Two years ago he started the Escuela de Robótica after identifying a lack of problem-solving skills in the community.

Garcia, who teaches robotics and programming at the school, says, “We are trying to empower the community to learn how to solve problems locally.” He continued, “People in Chocó often complain that the central government is not doing enough for them. If there’s a problem, they wait for help or resources from Bogotá, so we’re trying to change that.”

He says he is sowing seeds in the children to empower them for the future, so that they can work through problems that will help them with life skills as well as open up possible employment opportunities through the technical know-how they learn at the school.

Garcia also develops prototypes to help people in the department improve their lives, such as an early warning system for floods. In the Chocó and Cauca area, many of the poorest people live in precarious conditions close to the banks of the River Atrato, which often swells suddenly taking people and houses along with the current.

The warning system Garcia developed would send out an alert, giving people five minutes to react and move out of danger’s way.

“It rains a lot in Chocó, it usually rains at night or in the early hours of the morning, which means that most people are asleep, so the effects of floods and landslides are even more devastating. That’s why an alarm system similar to the ones used in countries prone to earthquakes is so important here, not so much in the city, but more so in the rural areas, so it can wake people up and give them a chance to move.”

Initial tests with the prototype proved that it was very good at monitoring water levels, however parts of it still need development, and they are looking for some civil engineers to partner up with them in the final stages of building and inserting the device.

From October 16 to 20, Garcia led 11 kids from the school to compete in the national finals of the robotics tournament RoboRAVE held in Medellín. The Chocoanos aged nine to 16 went up against around 800 young people, and the school’s junior team, which consisted of eight children in the nine to 13 category, came third and secured a place in the world finals that will take place in China in May 2019.

“This is an important achievement for the kids,” says Garcia. “Not only is it a great chance for them to show their talents, but it has also broken a mental barrier for them. It helps them see that even though they’re from a vulnerable area, they are able to build something that can change their circumstances and improve their lives. It also helps to change the image of Afro-Colombians, so others can see that people from Chocó are capable of great things.”

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Adriaan Alsema https://colombiareports.com <![CDATA[Protests over violence in Colombia mar Duque’s first trip to Europe]]> https://colombiareports.com/?p=189981 2018-11-13T10:23:04Z 2018-11-13T10:23:04Z Colombia’s President Ivan Duque first visit to Europe was met with protests by activists demanding an end to the mass killing of social leaders and the repression of student protests.…

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Colombia’s President Ivan Duque first visit to Europe was met with protests by activists demanding an end to the mass killing of social leaders and the repression of student protests.

Protesters were removed from the UNESCO office in Paris where he was speaking with other government officials, avoiding a confrontation there.

But when Duque took part in a science conference on Monday, he could not evade the barrage of criticism coming from activists and students who demanded an end to the mass killing of social leaders in Colombia and the violent repression of student protests.

We demand that the administration of Duque and [his political patron, former President Alvaro] Uribe stop the systematic murders in Colombia and stop the persecution against the social movement and the student movement.

Anonymous student

Indignant he was held responsible for the gross human rights violations in his country and accused of being a puppet president, Duque abandoned the Sciences Po conference in the French capital.


The Duque effect: one social leader is assassinated in Colombia almost every day now


Duque’s next confrontation took place when the president ran into a Colombian exchange student, who reminded Duque he had falsified his CV and had inflated his academic achievements ahead of his election.

I’m a student. I am finishing a doctorate in constitutional law here in France. Those doctorates here take years. In France you don’t get a diploma in 10 days.

Anonymous student

The student additionally demanded Duque take part in serious negotiations with students after talks between his education minister and student organizations broke down last week and subsequent student marches were met by violence.

Dozens were injured in these protests and at least three students went missing after the police broke up manifestations in Colombia’s capital Bogota.


22 vandals and death threats: not enough to deter Colombia’s striking students

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