Politicians convicted for links to paramilitaries and jailed in Bogota‘s infamous La Picota prison are getting special privileges, such as vallenato parties and regular trips outside of the jail, reports Caracol Radio.
In what has come to be known as the “parapolitics yard,” barbecues and parties are regular events, while alcohol, Blackberry cell phones and cash are all freely available to inmates of the “Ere Sur” wing of La Picota, according to a Caracol source.
The source said that in May a parapolitics inmate called the then-Interior and Justice Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio while drunk and complained that someone was trying to kill the prisoner. An officer from INPEC, the national prison authority, allegedly then came to the rescue of the inmate, which the source said demonstrates the power parapolitics prisoners wield in La Picota.
Prisoners are also reportedly using the excuse of medical appointments to attend political meetings at bars and restaurants outside the prison.
Minister for Justice and the Interior German Vargas Lleras ordered an investigation into the medical visits, especially those for dental appointments, which have forced inmates to leave the prison 50 times this year.
Inmates at the prison told El Pais that the visits were “clinically justified,” especially among the elderly.
“The departures are due, in many cases, to extensive treatment, surgery and physical rehabilitation, treatment shelved long ago, which now, given our situation, we can spend time on,” said an inmate.
Acting director of the prison authority INPEC, Luis Felipe Henao, said that “both the court and INPEC have to take measures that will demonstrate to society that no one can commit a crime and making fun of a standard.”
In May, La Picota authorities reported that it was increasingly difficult to accommodate Colombian Congress members accused of parapolitics, because the prison is running out of space.
Colombia’s prison authority INPEC said that of the prison’s 48 rooms, 43 are occupied by lawmakers being tried for links with paramilitary groups.