El Espectador, August 8, 2019
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
After reviewing the 236 candidates for mayor and governor, the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation has pointed out that 98 of them have been sentenced or have indications of corruption, allegations of “parapolitica” (politicians working with paramilitaries) and apparent connections with illegal entities.
This Thursday, the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation revealed a list of 98 candidates in regional elections who face questions about alleged corruption, a heritage of “parapolitica”, and apparent connections with illegal bodies.
According to the organization, the test is the result of a preliminary analysis in monitoring the 236 candidates for governor and mayor in 27 provinces, and it includes three exceptional cases of provincial assemblies and counsels.
For Peace and Reconciliation, “at first glance, the presence of 98 candidates with questionable records is a sign of the judicial political and social impunity that we are experiencing in our country. Many of them have been involved in the legal system or in the public eye and now they are offering themselves, cool as a cucumber, to take charge of public responsibilities in their regions.”
In its report, the Foundation concludes that many of those with questionable records relied on collection of signatures and the formation of coalitions to gain support. Considering the signatures, the Foundation warns that it is a strategy that gives them an air of ordinary citizens and allows them to get an early start on their campaign.
“Meanwhile, the clans and the parties that support them are behind the scenes managing the campaign without revealing their names. That is what happened earlier with the Conservative, Liberal, Opción Ciudadana (Civic Option) parties, and the U Party,” the report points out.
In addition, Peace and Reconciliation calls attention to the limitation of competition that can be seen in some provinces because of the hegemony and the influence of political organizations. “The consolidation and absolute control that certain clans exercise in some territories leads to singing victory songs before the campaign even begins.”
The Foundation believes that this is a phenomenon that is found in at least 11 of the 32 provinces in the country; particularly, Atlántico – for the influence of the Char family–; Valle del Cauca—for the dominance of the current Governor Dilian Francisca Toro–, and Cesar – for the power of the Gnecco family–.
Finally, the Foundation warns of the appearance of the Afro-Colombian Democratic Alliance (ADA), has supported 3,500 candidates in only three months of existence. “Some sources are saying that old “parapoliticos” like Luis Alberto Gil, alias el Tuerto Gil, and Juan Carlos Martínez Sinisterra, are behind this new party,” the report points out.
Cases of corruption are the most frequent allegations in the analysis. The Foundation identifies 53. As to others, Peace and Reconciliation calls attention to cases like that of the candidate for Governor of Risaralda and former Mayor of Pereira, Israel Londoño Londoño. According to Peace and Reconciliation, although he was not permitted to have any public responsibility for ten years, for his part in contracting irregularities, “he was able to evade that punishment by paying a fine of 56 million pesos (about USD 58,000) and now he’s running for governor.”
Gabriel Calle, the father of Córdoba’s current Chamber Representative, Andrés Calle, against whom—the Foundation reminds us—an arrest warrant was issued (later withdrawn) for alleged embezzlement while he was the Mayor of the Municipality of Montelíbano. “Even in the midst of the investigation, he’s running for Mayor again,” alleges Peace and Reconciliation.
The report also points to the case of Fredy Anaya, the Conservative Party candidate for Mayor of Bucaramanga. He is accused of taking part in a questionable network of contractors belonging to the Tavera Clan; contracts that are valued at 33 billion pesos (about USD 16,000,000). And Facundo Castillo, candidate for Governor of Arauca Province is supported by a coalition that is subject to 15 different investigations.
Parapolitica (Politicians working with paramilitaries)
Regarding “parapolitica”, Peace and Reconciliation identified 38 who could be charged with that. Nine are directly related to ongoing legal proceedings, and 29 of the ones that are called second generation, that is, connections related to family and close friends.
The report highlights names such as Yahír Acuña, the former Representative of Sucre who is running for governor of that province; former Senator Mario Alberto Fernández, who is running for Mayor of Sincelejo, and César Alzate, who wants to be the Mayor of La Dorada (Caldas Province).
There is also Juana Gómez Bacci, the daughter of Kiko Gómez and candidate for the Assembly in La Guajira; Luis Miguel Cotes, who wants to be Governor of Magdalena and whom the Foundation accuses of inheriting the “parapolitical” organization of Francisco “Chico” Zuñiga, and Luis Alberto Monsalvo Gnecco, the cousin of Kiko Gómez and –according to Peace and Reconciliation—“ belongs to a clan that is accused of relationships with well-known paramilitaries and drug traffickers”.
They also identify cases like that of Roberto Jiménez Naranjo, candidate for the Council in Dosquebradas (Risaralda Province), who is the brother of the former paramilitary chief Carlos Mario Jiménez alias “Macaco” and Arleth Casado de López of the Liberal Party. She heads the list of candidates for the Montería Council and is married to Juan López Cabrales, convicted of “parapolitica”.
Alleged relationships with other illegal groups.
Considering all of those who present apparent connections with illegal groups, Peace and Reconciliation reports seven, among them the candidate for Governor of Arauca Province, Hernando Posso Parales, who was arrested in 2002 for alleged connections with the then-guerrillas of the Farc; Néstor Pérez, candidate for Mayor of Villavicencio, who according to the organization may be a front man for the drug trafficker Germán Gonzalo Sánchez Rey, alias “Coleta”, and Jorge Coral Rivas, running for Governor of Putumayo, who allegedly has links with the criminal gang “La Constru” (“The Builders”).