Colombia’s Petro threatened by scandal

Bogota, Aug 4 (EFE).- Three days before the anniversary of his inauguration as Colombia’s first leftist president, Gustavo Petro said Friday that he has retained counsel in expectation of charges that his 2022 campaign benefited from illegal contributions.

The accusations are based on statements made by his son, Nicolas Petro Burgos, after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors who indicted him for money laundering and illicit enrichment.

“It will be the judges in their respective jurisdictions who define juridically what concerns them. Therefore I have granted power to the substitute judge of the Criminal Appeal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, Mauricio Pava Lugo, to represent me,” the president said Friday.

Pava Lugo signaled that he will seek immediate access to all of the criminal complaints to facilitate “a serious and respectful juridical discussion.”

Gustavo Petro, having already rejected the notion that his son would have channeled dirty money into the presidential campaign, denounced what he called a conspiracy “to try to open the path to the toppling of the first people’s government in Colombia.”

Petro Burgos, 37, was detained last Saturday in Barranquilla, capital of Atlantico province, where he is a member of the legislature.

Also taken into custody was his ex-wife, Daysuris Vasquez, who months ago accused her former spouse of pocketing a substantial amount of money that was intended as a contribution to his father’s presidential campaign.

The former spouses were brought to Bogota and appeared in court on Tuesday for arraignment. Following the lunch break, Petro Burgos, whose current wife is pregnant, told the court he had reached an agreement with prosecutors.

“I want to announce to Colombia that we have decided to initiate a process of collaboration where I will talk about new events and situations that will assist justice. I do it for my family and for my baby who is on the way,” he said.

On Thursday, prosecutor Mario Burgos said that Nicolas Petro Burgos told investigators that while he did keep some of the funds he received from reputed drug trafficker Samuel Santander Lopesierra, alias “the Marlboro Man,” and a son of controversial businessman Alfonso “Turco” Hilsaca, portions of the money reached his father’s campaign.

Prosecutors have yet to make public any evidence in support of the allegation.

Interior Minister Luis Fernando Velasco said Friday that Nicolas Petro Burgos had no administrative role in his father’s presidential campaign.

“The statement from the Attorney General’s Office at no point mentions charges for illegal campaign finance offenses,” he said at a public event in the northeastern city of Cucuta. “There is no elements of proof, at least so far.”

The person who managed the president’s campaign, Ricardo Roa, is currently president of state oil company Ecopetrol.

The chair of the investigations committee in the lower house of Colombia’s Congress, conservative Wadith Manzur, said Friday that the panel opened a probe of the president in March after Daysuris Vasquez told newsweekly Semana that her ex-husband had pocketed more than $200,000 from Lopesierra and Hilsaca meant for Gustavo Petro’s campaign.

EFE joc/dr

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