Ex-Agriculture Minister Arias is innocent: Uribe

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has continued to maintain the innocence of ex-Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias, implicated in the major ministry scandal regarding the misallocation of government funds.

In a Monday dialogue with journalists, Uribe said that Arias, and all of the ministry officials already imprisoned for involvement in the Agro Ingreso Seguro (AIS) scandal, “are honest” and should go free, Colombian media reported.

“There is not a single sign of appropriation of resources, or of fraud, or of illegitimate interest,” said Uribe, in reference to the alleged involvement of the officials in the scandal, in which government subsidies intended for poor, rural farmers were redirected into the hands of some of Colombia’s most wealthy families.

“Just as I have defended the honorability of those who are in jail, I defend that of Andres Felipe Arias,” added the former president, also stating that, “It hurts me and I am confident that justice will occur for those employees who are honest.”

Uribe said that those who have committed crimes during the scandal should be sent to prison, but did not indicate to whom he was referring.

Despite his vehement defense of the accused, Uribe expressed concern that Arias may nonetheless be sent to jail, stating that “it is possible.”

The disgraced former minister, whose assets were seized in February for alleged involvement in the scandal, is now having a new case brought against him by the Prosecutor General’s Office for apparently suspicious amendments he made to the requirements for holding a ministry position during his time in office.

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