The governor of Cesar, a member of one of Colombia’s most notorious crime families, said to be pleased with investments of the National Registry ahead of the 2022 elections.
Governor Luis Alberto Monsalve of the Gnecco crime family expressed his gratitude on Friday after meeting with controversial National Registrar Alexander Vega.
According to the Governor’s Office, Vega met with the son of alleged crime lord Cielo Gnecco “with the purpose to contribute to the strengthening of democracy and the processes executed by the National Registry in the Cesar province.”
The visit came days after President Ivan Duque and Monsalve announced an investment of “almost 4.4 trillion pesos ($1.2 billion) that will be available for high-impact social and economic projects” in the Caribbean region.
Election budgets for a crime family
Vega’s investments seek to improve access to voting booths for physically disabled people, among other things that would be no reason for controversy if the funds for these projects weren’t managed by the Gnecco family.
Monsalve was absolved of vote-buying charges last year after successfully appealing a Supreme Court ruling that sentenced the governor to five years house arrest.
Monsalve’s cousin, “Pajarito,” is an alleged money launderer of Marquitos Figueroa, whose drug trafficking organization conspired with the president’s far-right Democratic Center party to buy votes for Duque ahead of the 2018 elections.
This made National Registry investments in “the promotion of campaigns” announced by Cesar’s governor more than controversial, not to mention funds “to lower the under-registration of children” who can’t even vote.
The national registrar’s electoral piñata
Cesar was arguably the most controversial stop of Vega’s pre-election tour in which the National Registrar has been handing out budgets to governors who may not be the best to manage election funds.
Think tank Paz y Reconciliation reported in October last year that Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla more than doubled the National Registry’s budget for this year.
This budget increase gave Vega a $294 million (COP1 trillion) budget, part of which the national registrar has been handing out to governors like Monsalve who didn’t specify how much his office would receive to improve and maintain electoral infrastructure and “a few agreements that help us with this.”
The increased budget for the National Registry and Vega’s mass firing of election officials triggered suspicions ahead of a recently approved electoral reform in which Duque sought to boost the powers of Vega and himself.