Allegations from Dismissed Military Official Have Ensnared Colombian President Petro in a Helicopter Bribery Scandal
Bribery allegations made by a recently dismissed military official implicating the presidential administration have put Gustavo Petro’s government in the eye of the storm.
In an interview published earlier this month by Semana magazine, Ricardo Díaz, a former army general who served as vice minister of planning and strategy until he his requested resignation was finalized in June, alleged that people tied to the Petro administration offered to pay him $179,000 USD if he oversaw the purchase of three helicopters from Qatar.
Díaz said that he rejected the offer, a request he claims was initiated by retired army officer Eduardo Mejía, who he says had been acting at the bequest of family intermediaries of disgraced former Petro confidant Armando Benedetti and as well as defense contractor firm Force executive Camilo Torres.
After rejecting the request, Díaz claims he reported the incident directly to Defense Minister Iván Velásquez.
In a formal congressional inquiry, on September 12, Velásquez disputed this account and said no report was ever made. He publicly speculated that Díaz was making false claims due to “pain” caused by Petro removing him from office.
Díaz had said in the interview with Semana that the attitude of his superiors toward him changed after the incident, culminating in a request to resign that included Díaz and two other high-ranking military officials.
In a long Twitter post on September 14, which aligned with a press release from the presidential administration, Petro said Díaz was requested to resign from his position due to reports of “mistreatment of the work staff by him” and “dissatisfaction” by Velásquesz with his subordinant’s actions. “That’s why he left the ministry,” wrote Petro.
The office of the attorney general and federal prosecutors have opened formal investigations regarding the allegations.