By Rodrigo Uprimny, EL ESPECTADOR, October 28, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Two statements by the Attorney General this week confirm that he is using his office politically to a degree rarely seen before in Colombia. They confirm that, while other Attorneys General also abused their office in the past, Barbosa has taken it to incredible extremes.

The first of the statements was on Wednesday: Barbosa said that in the next week he would summon the High Commissioner for Peace to require him to describe the conditions under which he had met with Iván Márquez. His thesis is that Rueda could have committed the crimes of failure to report a crime and obstruction of justice, as Iván Márquez is subject to an active arrest warrant and Rueda did not report his location to prosecutors. But this thesis is really far-fetched. For years, it’s been accepted that Peace Commissioners put together secret exploratory conversations with the members of illegal armed groups like Márquez’ Segunda Marquetalia to see if it might not be possible to arrive at formal negotiations. That authority is explicitly established in the prior Statute 418 of 1997, reformed and extended by last year’s Statute 2272, which provides in Article 8 that those who are authorized by the government, as the High Commissioner for Peace obviously is, because it’s his essential function, can put together approaches and conversations with those groups.

His second statement was to oppose the administration’s announcement that rewards would be handed out to those who made reliable complaints of election crimes, especially complaints of vote-buying. Barbosa thought that that government announcement invaded the jurisdiction of the prosecutors, as it would displace a criminal investigation, and could lead to criminal investigations for embezzlement or false reports of crime in cases where money might be paid for unsupported allegations of.

Barbosa’s noisy opposition is also without any support. We have accepted for decades that governments and the Police offer rewards for complaints or for collaboration resulting in the solution of a crime. That doesn’t take the place of the Attorney General’s Office, because, once the government or the Police receive the information, they have to furnish it to the prosecutors, who then proceed to investigate. And, obviously, if there is a wrongful reward paid, because the complaint turned out to be false, the officials and citizens involved will have to deal with that.

Barbosa might disagree with a possible negotiation with the Second Marquetalia, or he might request greater transparency in the “total peace” process and a better articulation of this policy through investigations by the Attorney General’s Office. Barbosa might also believe that the strategy of giving rewards is pernicious, because it impedes the formation of a culture where citizens report crimes as a democratic duty and not to receive payments. All of those are respectable positions for an Attorney General. Many people might even share some of those possible criticisms, but what is abusive is that Barbosa is standing in the way of the policy of peace or the strategy of giving rewards for election crimes and he is resorting to strident announcements saying that the prosecutors might open criminal investigations of different Petro administration officials like Rueda, while these anouncements are devoid of any legal substance. They are “Barbosities”.

This shows that Barbosa, with a mixture of arrogance and weakness in legal training, along with his total deference to the administration of his friend Duque, is trying to be the headman of the opposition to Petro and thus to get the country ready for his future career in politics. Hard to find a worse use of the prosecution function.

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