Colombia’s Inspector General said Thursday he has opened an investigation to determine who is responsible for using the country’s peace funds to boost President Ivan Duque’s public image.
In a press conference, Inspector General Fernando Carrillo said the disciplinary investigation seeks to determine who ordered to take $840 thousand (COP3.4 billion) from a program that sought to “develop and finance programs for the generation of conditions and maintenance of peace” to use it to promote the president.
Media reported earlier this month that this money had been used to pay the PR firm of Duque’s far-right party, Du Brand, to, among other things, take charge of “the definition and implementation of the strategy to improve the president’s image online.”
According to the Inspector General’s Office, Carrillo “appointed an official to carry out the investigation to define responsibilities for the technical, economic and legal justification for the signing of the contract.”
The Inspector General’s Office investigator won’t have to look very far as the signature of the president’s propaganda chief, Hassan Nassar, is on the contract with the firm that was signed earlier this month.
Nassar did not deny that the funds to improve Duque’s public image came from the country’s peace process, but clarified “they are not resources set aside for the health emergency” caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which is what could get him barred from holding office.
According to newspaper El Espectador, Du Brand has been working with the president’s Democratic Center party since 2016 when it contributed almost $90,000 (COP330 million) to a campaign that sought to sink a peace deal with now-demobilized FARC guerrillas.
Hello, Echeverry family
The son of Luigi Echeverry, one of the president’s best friends, is in charge of the online propaganda campaign paid for by the government.
The scandal with Du Brand is the second involving the alleged misappropriation of peace funds to boost the president’s image.
One week after the scandal about the propaganda deal had been made public, local media reported the President’s Office had used other peace funds to pay for a poll that would effectively verify the results of the propaganda offensive.
Duque has been under increasing pressure about his management of the peace process with the FARC that is fiercely opposed by his party.