Senior journalist Gonzalo Guillen filed election fraud charges against Uribe on Wednesday after publishing 2018 wiretap transcripts in which one of Uribe’s late mafia friends, Jose Guillermo Hernandez, said he was buying votes for Duque.
Hernandez, an associate of notorious crime lord Marquitos Figueroa, was murdered in what was called a botched robbery in Brazil in May last year.
Despite the evidence that got him in legal trouble again, Uribe dismissed Guillen’s revelations as a “fairy tale” and said Duque’s 2018 campaign was handled “rigorously” by campaign manager Luigi Echeverri.
Uribe is already investigated by the court for allegedly trying to manipulate witnesses who had testified he helped found a paramilitary death squad.
Duque’s former campaign manager to investigate fraud
The notoriously corrupt National Electoral Council (CNE) confirmed on Wednesday that it had opened a formal investigation into claims by fugitive politician Aida Merlano who said the president was personally informed about vote-buying.
The commission changed the composition of the investigations team, however, adding magistrate Jaime Luis Lacouture (Conservative Party) and removing the opposition representative.
Lacauture was Duque’s former campaign manager in La Guajira, the province where Hernandez said he was in charge of vote-buying.
Prosecution limp due to conflict of interest
Prosecutor General Francisco Barbosa told press on Wednesday that he would forward the evidence to “the competent authorities,” raising questions about which authorities he was referring to.
The prosecution is the competent authority to investigate crimes and Duque’s alleged involvement in them, but Barbosa and the president have been friends for more than 25 years.
The prosecutor general agreed to investigate fraud about similar election rigging accusations made against the president by fugitive politician Aida Merlano, but only after meeting with the Supreme Court.
The evident conflict of interest of the prosecutor general and the CNE makes any independent investigation into Duque impossible while any attempt to push the election rigging scandal under the rug could ignite a furious backlash from the public.
Guillen’s criminal charges against the president’s political patron and Barbosa’s impediment to investigate his own friend could motivate the Supreme court to appoint a special prosecutor.
The court is already investigating Uribe for allegedly manipulating witnesses who have accused the former Medellin Cartel associate of being the co-founder of a death squad.
Duque could topple a house of cards
The piling up of claims and evidence the 2018 elections were rigged in favor of Duque are increasing tensions between citizens and authorities who, with the exception of the Supreme Court, are reluctant to investigate the fraud.
Colombians are fed up with the corruption that is bleeding their country dry and want justice to be served.
Effectively investigating the election fraud, however, could not just damage Duque, but topple a network of “clans” and corporations that have corrupted Colombia’s economy and democracy alike for centuries.
The president is no more than a disposable frontman of these pseudo-political criminal organizations that have infiltrated all levels of government, the security forces, Congress and the judicial branch like a fungus.
Confronting “the system” is dangerous, but not impossible because it’s like a house of cards; if you take out one, dozens come tumbling down.
After prosecutors found the computer of extradited paramilitary commander “Jorge 40” in 2006, for example, the subsequent investigations led to the incarcerations of more than 60 congressman, including Uribe’s cousin Mario, and at least seven governors.
The same thing could happen now as Colombia’s politicians may be powerful and sometimes violent, but as Duque has shown us on multiple occasions, they’re not particularly astute and houses of cards are not meant to last.