One week after Colombia’s city halls changed administration, four mayors are in jail on election fraud already, according to newspaper El Espectador.
The situation is creating an awkward situation in the northern town of San Benito Abad, Sucre, whose mayor was inaugurated in jail from where he is now running the public administration.
The mayor of Bello, Antioquia, who is supposedly wearing an ankle bracelet, was able to be sworn in without problem, while legally he is in the same situation as the jailed mayors.
According to Susana Buitrago, a former magistrate of the State Council, both the mayor of Bello and the mayor of San Benito Abad unlawfully took office.
“Being elected mayor is not enough to act as such,” Buitrago told El Espectador. Several decrees have confirmed that “the taking office has no legal effect if a citizen takes office while in custody.”
“Usually, the suspension of the position, contemplated in the previous criminal procedure code, is used to prevent the exercise of public functions,” former CNE magistrate Joaquin Jose Vives told El Espectador.
A suspension, however, would require the intervention of a judge and the judicial branch is on recess until January 12.
This loophole apparently allows the mayors to evade the law for now with every consequence that comes with it.
“They are delegitimizing politics,” according to current CNE president Hernan Penagos.
Additionally, having taken office “implies that that person can manage the council, the budget and the contracts” at least until he is suspended, according to criminal defense lawyer Ivan Cancino.