Nicolás Petro, son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro is ready to collaborate with the Ministry of Justice after having achieved an agreement to avoid jail with the attorney general’s office.
The president’s eldest son promised to reveal the names of high-ranking government officials, prominent business people, and Colombians tied to narcotics operations who, according to Nicolás Petro, were involved with money of dubious origin that exceeded permitted election campaign limits and was not registered in the accounting of the 2022 campaign team.
Photo: President Gustavo Petro (right) posing for a photo with his son Nicolás Petro. (Credit: Presidencia de la Republica)
This political earthquake was set in motion on July 29 when the president’s son was arrested on charges of illicit enrichment and money laundering related to funds allegedly connected to drug traffickers. His ex-wife, Daysuris Vásquez, was also arrested.
Per reports, Vásquez, who has been accused of money laundering and violating private data, has agreed to cooperate with the office of the attorney general and is providing information useful to the investigators, including funds tied to Samuel Santander Lopesierra (known as “The Marlboro Man”), who spent 18 years in a US jail for drug trafficking.
President Petro has distanced himself from his son’s actions, saying publicly that “I did not raise him.” Last weekend, the South American country was shaken by an interview in weekly news magazine Semana in which Nicolás Petro revealed that his father used him as a game chip and always kept a cold relationship with him and his mother, Katia Burgos, who was Gustavo Petro’s first wife.
During the hearings, prosecutor Mario Burgos unveiled a detailed record of Nicolás Petro alleged illicit enrichment and money laundering. His account showed that Nicolás spent large amounts of money on luxury goods — totaling more than $242,000 USD in expenses overall — that did not align with his wage as a deputy in the department of Atlántico
Documents and conversation recordings supplied by Daysuris Vásquez also allegedly showed that she and Nicolás Petro took part in a money laundering practice of purchasing properties under the names of third parties to give the appearance of legitimacy.
Burgos, the prosecutor, exhibited a graphic detailing the first son’s connections with politicians, shady individuals, businessmen, and some people close to Gustavo Petro, including Verónica Alcocer, with whom Nicolás admitted to having a serious grudge in his conversation with Semana.
Late in the night, on August 4, Ómar Beltrán, the judge in charge of the procedures, decided to send both to Barranquilla under probation, sparing them the prison due to their commitment to collaborate with law enforcement and identify those involved in what appears to be a web of dirty money and illicit activity yet to be brought to the spotlight.
Callbacks to the 8,000 Process in Colombia
“If any leak of money was verified, in any case, its entry would have been behind my back.” On the night of July 27, 1995 — a little more than a year after he was elected — this statement by former Colombian President Ernesto Samper Pizano took a nation’s breath away. For the first time, a head of state had acknowledged that campaign funding tied to drug trafficking had been used.
Everything began on June 15, 1994, when an unknown individual gave audio recordings to presidential candidate Andrés Pastrana that the individual said would prove Samper’s campaign team accepted financial resources from Cali Cartel drug kingpins, brothers Miguel and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela.
The Colombian press called the incident “The Narco Cassettes” once they learned that they contained a conversation between the crime bosses and Alberto Giraldo, a corrupt journalist, about delivering $1.2 million USD to the campaign.
In the 1994 election, held on May 29 (first round) and June 19 (second round), Samper had won by a narrow margin of less than 20,000 votes. Pastrana later delivered the tapes of the recording to outgoing President César Gaviria, and on June 21 — two days after Samper’s victory — the recordings were published in the press.
In April 1995, after the attorney general’s office started the investigations, the Cali prosecutor’s assigned file number was 8,000, prompting the media to name the saga “Process 8,000.” Following this bombshell, Samper’s term became largely devoted to defending himself from those accusations.
Laura Lorena Jácome, narrating in the digital vault of Señal Memoria RTVC, said that the scandal implicated high-ranking government officials, including then-defense minister Fernando Botero; campaign treasurer Santiago Medina, and administrative manager Juan Manuel Avella. All three were sent to prison.
Ernesto Samper faced a trial in the Committee on Accusations of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Colombian Congress. On December 13, 1995, congressional representatives found him not guilty by a vote of 111-43, however, and Samper has since maintained his innocence to this day.
Despite the committee’s result, critics noted that the majority of involved politicians had backed Samper from the beginning and thus questioned their commitment to finding the truth. Many sarcastically referred to the body as the “Absolution Committee.”
The Political Investigation to Come
Now, regarding the charges surrounding his son, Back to the present, Gustavo Petro has designated Mauricio Pava Lugo as his legal representative in the matter. This news comes as Wadith Manzur, president of the congressional investigative committee, announced that a probe is being conducted by the body, which includes representatives Alirio Uribe of the Historic Pact Party (which backed Petro’s election), Olga Lucía Velásquez of the Green Alliance Party, and Wilmer Carrillo of the Party of the U.
In a sense, President Petro’s fate in the scandal may rest in their hands. The committee members have the option of archiving the investigation due to a lack of evidence, if Nicolás Petro does not deliver enough proof to the prosecutors. Or, if they find otherwise, they can present an accusation before the House of Representatives, which would then have to approve any motion by majority. If that happens, Colombia’s President could be indicted and face impeachment in the Senate.
Simultaneously, Petro’s campaign manager, Ricardo Roa, who is currently in charge of the state oil company Ecopetrol, will answer before the National Electoral Council (CNE) for the campaign procedures. (The decisions reached by the institution in this matter will only affect his actions and not affect Gustavo Petro.)
Roa told Blu Radio that Nicolás Petro did not take part in Petro’s presidential campaign, while maintaining that there was no use of shady money under his watch and denying rumors that he would resign from his position at Ecopetrol.