Colombian media network W Radio has confirmed that suspended lawyer Diego Cadena left Colombia on February 15th and has been seen in Panamá. Cadena is supposed to be in custody serving time for witness tampering in criminal proceedings against Senator and ex-President Alvaro Uribe.
Colombia’s prison authority INPEC seems clueless, stating that Cadena is still detained in his residence and does not have permission to leave the country. INPEC director General Mariano Botero was just dismissed after the Caracól television network showed imprisoned businessman Carlos Mattos roaming doing business and meeting with family in Bogotá when he is supposed to be serving time in prison after being extradited from Spain. Mattos was serving time for bribing two judges in a dispute with Hyundai after the South Korean automaker took away his concession to sell cars in Colombia.
Buffoons? Corrupt? Both?
Embarrassed, today Colombian President Ivan Duque fired both the head of INPEC and Wilmer Valencia, the warden of Bogotá’s famed La Picota prison. In 2019 convicted senator Aida Merlano convinced guards at the Buen Pastor women’s prison in Bogotá to allow her to leave for aesthetic dental treatments, and then escaped out the dentist’s window while the guards waited for her in the lobby. Merlano fled to Venezuela where she remains under the protection of dictator Nicolas Maduro.
Earlier this year, Insight Crime reported on a racket being run by Colombian prison guards delivering everything from fried rice to booze, drugs and electronics. All these events have taken place under Ivan Duque’s administration. Duque is a political acolyte of Alvaro Uribe. INPEC had no answer for why Uribe’s former lawyer Diego Cadena was not wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet as would be standard procedure. The Duque Administration had no answers for why Cadena was able to pass through migration when leaving Colombia.
EXCLUSIVO: En #SigueLaW revelamos la foto del exabogado de Uribe, Diego Cadena, también de paseo en Panamá hace 15 días pese a estar en prisión domiciliaria. El INPEC confirma que no pidió permiso y que tampoco tiene brazalete @WRadioColombia pic.twitter.com/HHiE21q5Ce
— Paola Herrera (@PaoHerreraC) March 2, 2022
Cadena was charged with witness tampering for attempting to bribe witnesses in criminal cases against his then client, former President Alvaro Uribe. Witnesses said Cadena tried to pay witnesses to change their testimony in a case against leftist senator and Uribe nemesis Ivan Cépeda. Cépeda accused Alvaro Uribe’s family of co-founding a paramilitary death squad in the 1990s.
The moves backfired when court found that Cadena, as Uribe’s lawyer, had paid over $40 million pesos to former paramilitary Carlos Enrique Vélez to not only change his testimony against Uribe, but to say that he made it up at the behest of Cépeda. The court then ended up ordering Uribe’s arrest in 2020 for the same witness tampering, though Uribe has not been convicted.
Headline photo: Diego Cadena’s Twitter account