The Colombian government on Wednesday announced the immediate suspension of the payment of $27 million in subsidies to the country’s flower sector, amid growing concerns about corruption and the mismanagement of subsidies and loans.
Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo said that the government will not release the subsidies, granted by the previous government of Alvaro Uribe just days before the end of that administration’s term, until there is clarity concerning the allegations.
The exporters are accused of having used government loans, intended to compensate them for the appreciation of the peso in 2008, to buy real estate in Ecuador and to financially support the political campaign of former Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias, who aspired to be the Conservatives’ 2010 presidential candidate.
Of the $123 million loan from 2008, $14 million is reported to be missing.
Restrepo said he will make government records of the loans and subsidies available to judicial and financial authorities to investigate the scandal.
Asocolflores, the flower exporters’ association, said the loans and subsidies were granted to individual growers and were never transferred through the association. It agreed to cooperate fully with the authorities.