Two former ministers on Monday began defending themselves before Colombia’s Supreme Court about their alleged involvement in the bribery of a former and convicted congresswoman in order to secure a constitutional amendment allowing former President Alvaro Uribe to run for a second term in 2006.
Uribe’s former Interior Minister, Sabas Pretelt de la Vega, and the former Minister for Social Protection, Diego Palacio, both said to be innocent of offering bribes to former House Representative Yidis Medina, who last week recovered her liberty after being sentenced for accepting the bribes.
Medina had admitted to receiving bribes she said had been offered by Pretelt and Palacio. In statements before the press, the disgraced lawmakers reiterated statements before the court, insisting that the two former ministers coerced her into changing her 2004 constitutional vote crucial to the approval of the controversial constitutional amendment.
“They have always lied to the country,” Medina told newspaper La Vanguardia Liberal, “A bribe isn’t done between Yidis Medina and Yidis Medina, you need another person for a bribe, and I am not the only one showing this. The court itself has videos that show that Pretelt met with me.”
The statement contradicts that of Pretelt who before the court admitted to meeting with Medina, but denied having offered her bribes to change her position on the amendment.
“I didn’t offer Yidis anything…She changed her vote but not because of pressure from the government,” Pretelt told the Supreme Court.
Palacio told the court Medina’s accusations are of a political nature. Additionally, “there is evidence that shows the opposite of the statements given” by the former representative.
Medina was sentenced to 3.5 years house arrest in 2008 after the Supreme Court ruled there was enough evidence to establish that the congresswoman had accepted bribed from the government officials. However, a trial against the implicated officials was delayed until after Medina was released.
The bribery allegations are about a congressional vote in 2004 over a amendment that changed the constitution and allowed a president or former president to run for a second term. Until that vote, Colombia’s constitution allowed presidents no more than one four-year term in office.
The then-opposition politician Medina and a second lawmaker, Teodolindo Avendaño, unexpectedly changed their vote at the final moment after having openly opposed a second presidential term. Had the two lawmakers not changed their vote, the second term of Uribe would have been unconstitutional.
As Medina has alleged to have evidence the former President was also involved in the bribery, Congress opened an investigation against Uribe who is also facing allegations he ordered the illegal wiretapping of political opponents.