Colprensa, EL PAIS, April 21, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Senator Iván Cepeda claims that Camargo has politicized the agency. He has demanded that the Inspector General investigate whether he gave priority to relationships with applicants, contrary to legal requirements.
Senator Iván Cepeda has requested the Inspector General’s Office to investigate Carlos Camargo, the Public Defender, for alleged irregularities in naming 15 people to managerial positions. The Senator from the Democratic Pole Party claimed that these officials do not have the knowledge and experience required for regional and delegated Public Defender positions.
The disciplinary complaint was filed this Monday and detailed that, contrary to the job requirements for the agency that must enforce protections for human rights, some of these officials were connected to paramilitary and corruption scandals.
Besides that, some of them have been the subject of complaints for physical, psychological and workplace harassment, and others are continuing to be active in Democratic Center politics, in spite of the fact that such political activities are prohibited by regulations.
“The Public Defender has named as regional and delegated Public Defenders people that don’t have the demonstrated experience or sufficient knowledge needed for the exercise of their functions, but who, on the contrary, do have clear political affiliations with the political parties that helped him in his election,” claimed Cepeda.
According to the Senator, Camargo has politicized the agency and for that reason, he asked the Inspector General’s Office to investigate to learn whether in these cases, Camargo prioritized the applicants’ connections above the legal requirements and regulations that apply to hiring.
Besides that, Cepeda filed a complaint with the Comptroller’s Office, questioning the signing of 11 no-bid contracts for services, without complying with legal requirements. The total value of the challenged contracts is 243 million pesos (roughly USD $67,000).
“I asked the Comptroller’s Office to be vigilant over the financial management in the Public Defender’s Office, and to use an auditing process to determine whether or not there are irregularities that could implicate something wrong with the financial management of government expenditures,” he added.
There are complaints of a liaison with the Armed Forces
Besides the Senator’s complaints, officials of the agency are concerned that inside the Public Defender’s Office, they have installed an office of coordination with the Armed Forces, with the permanent presence of members of the Colombian Army.
They consider that situation to be a threat to their independence and autonomy, and a mechanism for putting pressure on those that document situations where members of the Armed Forces are involved in the violation of human rights.
Who might be investigated and why?
The contracts to be investigated by the Comptroller’s Office include those signed by Jorge Arturo Moncada Rojas, the son-in-law of Alejandro Ordoñez, now Colombia’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OEA in Spanish); Miller Jesús Soto Solano, a primary candidate for Governor of La Guajira Province for the Democratic Center Party, and criticized for statements he has made stigmatizing social leaders; Eduardo Carmelo Padilla, a former candidate for Governor of Córdoba Province and alleged to be involved in embezzlement in the “health cartel” in Córdoba.
The hiring of Cielo González Villa will also be investigated. She is the former Mayor of Neiva and the former Governor of Huila Province. She was penalized by the Inspector General for the irregular manipulation of 3,500 million pesos (roughly 1 million USD)
worth of oil company royalties while she administered the provincial capital. Her husband, Germán Trujillo, was convicted of appropriating millions of pesos belonging to the School Food Program (PAE) in Santander Province.
Besides that, José Augusto Rendón García, appointed Regional Public Defender in Urabá, is among the 15 people whose appointments are to be investigated.
In Rendón’s case, social organizations and human rights defenders have pointed out that he had represented and assisted business owners in the region who had been massive purchasers of land during the wave of paramilitary control in Urabá. He has also been a fierce critic of land restitution, and has urged that those who are trying to reclaim their land ought to look for commercial agreements with the new owners of their land.
With respect to Wilson Alberto Núñez, Regional Public Defender in Bogotá, Cepeda says that, besides not having the experience necessary to carry out his functions, five of his seven years of experience are as legal coordinator of the Democratic Center Party, and in spite of the fact that he was appointed on December 22, 2020 to the position of Regional Public Defender, he continues to use his social media networks to distribute messages from Members of Congress in his political party.
Andrés Felipe Villamizar Ortiz, a former Member of Congress from the Liberal Party, was named the Public Defender’s Delegate for economic, social, and cultural rights. In the opinion of Senator Cepeda, Villamizar Ortiz does not have either academic or professional experience to furnish understanding of the DESC.
Besides that, Villamizar’s ex-wife filed a complaint against him in 2017, accusing him of physical and psychological abuse. The National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science granted her ten days paid leave for “traumatic systems of abrasive blunt injury.”
Diana Margarita Silva Londoño worked from February to June of 2018 as a contractor for the Democratic Center Party, and in 2017, she was a political aide to the former Uribista primary candidate Rafael Nieto. She was a member of the Legislative Work Unit in the office of Representative Samuel Hoyos. Recently she was criticized for a private meeting she had with the former paramilitary chieftain “Jorge 40” in the Picaleña Prison. Besides that, on last April 7, 11 professionals filed a complaint against her for workplace harassment, claiming disrespectful conduct, threats, abuse, taunting, and inconsiderate and offensive treatment.
Ibeth Milagro Tobías Ahumada, a Public Defender Delegate for Criminal and Correctional Policy. According to La Silla Vacía, Ibeth Milagro Tobías is part of the political organization of former Congressman Rodrigo Roncallo, investigated for parapolitica.
 “Parapolitica” is a term used in Colombia to describe politicians working together with the paramilitaries.