TODAY COLOMBIA NEWS (Mike’s Bogota Blog) — As the Controlora, her job was to investigate and evaluate the performance of other government entities, including whether they were obeying the law.
As minister of Agriculture, his job included implementing a law providing subsidies to small landowners.
As director of the DAS, (Colombia’s version of the FBI), her job was to investigate and expose lawbreakers.
As peace commissioner, his job included negotiating the demobilization of outlaw guerrilla fighters and bringing them within the law.
However, when each of these high officials faced legal charges themselves, they decided that Colombian law shouldn’t apply to them, and fled the country.
Former Controlora ( (Comptroller) Sandra Morelli won respect for exposing corrupt contracts while in office. However, soon after finishing her term, she faced accusations herself, including alleged fraud involving the purchase of a government building. But Morelli alleged that Colombia’s Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre was biased against her, and declared that she would not receive a fair trial here, and fled to Italy, where she also has citizenship.
María del Pilar Hurtado, former director of the Administrative Security Department (DAS) under President Alvaro Uribe, allegedly helped Uribe spy on his political opponents, including Supreme Court magistrates and reporters. After the scandal, which many compared to Watergate, the DAS was liquidated and replaced. Hurtado fled to Panama, where she is fighting extradition. And Uribe was recently elected to Congress.
Andrés Felipe Arias, former minister of Agriculture under President Uribe, was popularly seen as Uribe’s heir and a potential presidential candidate. But Arias allegedly used a government subsidy program called Agro Ingreso Seguro (Secure Agricultural Income) to reward wealthy political supporters. Arias apparently did not enrich himself personally using the program, but nevertheless was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Arias fled with his family to the United States, where he is seeking political asylum. Arias claims that his 17-year sentence was disproportionate to any wrongdoing.
A respected author and conservative political leader, Luis Carlos Restrepo was the Uribe administration’s peace commissioner. In 2006, he oversaw the demobilization of 62 supposed guerrillas members of the Cacica la Gaitana Front. However, it later became known that most of the supposed guerrillas were homeless and unemployed men who had been paid 500,000 pesos each to pose as guerrilla fighters and ‘demobilize’ for the media. Even tho at least one ex-guerrilla testified that he had tricked Restrepo into believing that the men were guerrillas, courts ordered Restrepo arrested for the false demobilization. In January 2012, Restrepo fled to the U.S. and then to Canada, where he recently received asylum.
All four officials claim that Colombia’s justice system is unfair or biased. That may be true – but which nation’s system is not to some degree. And, by living in a nation, and particularly by serving in government, a person implicitly agrees to play by their nation’s rules. Picking and choosing when to respect the legal system is fundamentally unfair, since this option is not open to poor people.
You can’t – or shouldn’t be able – to pick and choose your laws.
The pattern of Colombian high officials fleeing the country to escape prosecution is also extremely damaging to Colombian society, since it creates a privileged class above the law and then everybody else, who have to submit themselves to an inefficient, often corrupt legal system. It thus degrades respect for the law and makes a mockery of the legal system which these once high officials once were supposed to uphold.
Article by Today Colombia, reposted with permission