Colombia’s Attorney General Prosecutes Various Cases of Corruption In October’s Local & Departmental Elections
One week ago last Sunday, Colombian voters went to the polls to choose mayors, neighborhood councils, city councils, and governors. With some notable exceptions, elections were mostly peaceful unlike past decades, but typical localized cases of vote buying and corruption were uncovered and are being prosecuted by Colombia’s justice department, La Fiscalía General de la Nación.
- In Soledad, Atlántico a large industrial suburb south of Barranquilla, prosecutors are investigating accusations of organized vote buying. In several points throughout the city, witnesses observed a crowd of people demanding payment for “logistical services” (vote buying) for several candidates.
The prosecutors say they have videos, testimony and audio that details the charges, and will announce further action soon.
Barranquilla’s Ernesto Cortissoz international airport (BAQ) is located on the south side of Soledad.
- Agents of Colombia’s Cuerpo Técnico de Investigación (CTI), somewhat analogous to the FBI in the United States, captured in the city of Ibagué, the outgoing mayor of the town of Valle de San Juan, Tolima, Héctor Orlando Padilla Barragán for the crime of aggravated conspiracy, and voter corruption.
According to the Attorney General, between July and October of this year, the former mayor conspired with the new mayor elect Daniel Ricardo García Castillo to steal the election for mayor and for several city council seats.
Prosecutors indicate that the suspects gave away construction material, water tanks, and cash in exchange for votes in favor of Garcia Castillo. Further, the suspects are accused of using government vehicles to deliver vote-buying contraband.
On October 26, the mayor elect was captured and charged. Garcia Castilla remains in jail awaiting trial.
- The mayor of El Paso, Cesar, Hidalfo Rafael De La Cruz Ortiz, and his wife Neyruth Diurbis Murgas Fuentes were captured for voter corruption and voter intimidation. Charges indicate that the mayor threatened to fire 4 municipal employees if they did not support his chosen candidates. Charges further state he transferred employees, traded votes for employment, and threatened contractors with cancellation of contracts. De La Cruz is charged with offering over 2 million pesos in exchange for votes.
In the course of the investigation, it was established that Mrs. Murgas Fuentes allegedly prepared a survey of voters in the hospital of the municipality, in such a way that whoever did not favor her interests in the elections could lose his or her position.
Mrs. Murgas also is alleged to have threatened the removal of older adults from a social program should they not cooperate.
The investigators have documented meetings in which the mayor warned contractors that they must support his candidate, and even forced them to do political work, under penalty of being fired.
- In El Rosario, Nariño, mayoral candidates Lauro Nel Arturo Guerrero of the Conservative Party and Alberto Folleco Eraso of the Radical Change Party, along with accomplice Mariela Castro Guerrero were captured for vote buying, and massive operations to have voters participate in elections away from their residences.
Prosecutors established that both candidates hired buses and transported busloads of voters in from different cities to change their céduias (ID cards, and registration) to El Rosario, Nariño, despite having no residency or connection to the municipality.
The corrupt candidates allegedly paid from $50,000 to $500,000 pesos, promised after voting, plus transportation, food and lodging. Voters were also offered zinc tiles, plumbing, cement, and bricks, as well as contracts with the administration should their candidate be elected.
- In San Onofre, Sucre, Silgado Tehran Oscar Segundo was captured with 294 million pesos, and charged with money laundering.
- Jhon Marlon Gómez Rojas was captured in Sucre with 78 million pesos.
- Cristian Dario Burgos Galván was captured in Moñitos, Córdoba with 24 million pesos.
- In the village of El Rosario, Nariño, city council candidate Jesús Gilder Ojeda accepted charges of voter registration fraud.
- Celso Jiménez Erazo, candidate for city council of San Benito Abad, Sucre was charged with voter corruption.
- In Atlántico department, a woman was captured with $1,170,000 Colombian Pesos in cash, and a list of voters and cédulas. According to the document, each voter was paid $50,000 pesos.
- In a Bolivar department polling station, a person was captured with 17 envelopes, each holding $50,000 pesos.
- In Montería, Córdova, two people were captured with gift certificates used to exchange goods for votes.
- Outside of El Bagre, Antioquia, a city council candidate was captured with $620,000 pesos in cash, and his own electoral propaganda.
- In El Piñon, Magdalena, a person was captured with four marked ballots. Additional reports of ballot theft were reported in San Zenón and Pijiño.
- Elsewhere in Magdalena, a department that has suffered voter corruption, extortion and organized crime, authorities captured 58 people for crimes such as conspiracy, extortion, theft, attempted murder, public corruption, domestic violence, and food assistance theft. Two people who were thought dead or missing showed up to vote.
- The prosecutors state that more than $400 million pesos have been seized, destined for electoral corruption.
- 249 complaints of voter registration fraud have been received.
- 247 complaints of voter corruption (typically vote-buying) have been received.
- 29 complaints of suffrage restriction (voter intimidation) have been received.
- 70 complaints of illegal electoral activity (such as campaigning) by public officials have been received.
- 44 complaints of illegal election of candidates have been received.