Santos’ Strongman In The Chief Prosecutor’s Office

By bogotapost September 10, 2014
Chief Prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre.

Chief Prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre.

Columnist Adriaan Alsema points out that Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre is going after Uribe and his loyalists while turning a blind eye to the wrongdoing of the president and his allies

Colombia’s chief prosecutor, the most important judicial official in the country, is applying justice arbitrarily and is effectively coercing political critics of President Juan Manuel Santos while intimidating opposition.

According to former president Alvaro Uribe, Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre and his predecessor Viviane Morales have been “waging a war” against the ex-head-of-state’s political followers.
Admittedly, the two latest chief prosecutors have been relatively successful in seeking justice in cases involving Uribe loyalists, while the former president himself is also under increasing judicial pressure over his alleged ties to right-wing paramilitary groups.

Consequently, Uribe’s original support among politically powerful individuals, families and corporations has shrunk due to the abundance of criminal investigations against him and his political allies.

Former intelligence chief Maria del Pilar Hurtado is wanted over illegal spying on political opponents, while former Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo is wanted for a fake FARC demobilization in an apparent attempt to influence the 2006 elections.

Former Interior Minister Sabas Pretelt and former Health Minister Diego Palacios are under investigation for the bribing of congressmen that proved key for Uribe’s 2006 re-election.

Uribe himself is or has been investigated for a list of criminal charges longer than the Dead Sea scrolls. More than 40 Uribe-loyal ex-lawmakers and ex-governors are behind bars, or in at least one case, convicted in absentia. They include: former intelligence chief Jorge Noguera, former Agricultural Minister Andres Felipe Arias, and Uribe’s cousin and former Senator Mario Uribe. The ex-president’s former personal security chief, Mauricio Santoyo, is currently serving time in the Unites States.

However, none of these convictions were really thanks to the work of the current prosecutor general. Noguera was convicted years before Montealegre took office. Santoyo wasn’t even under investigation in Colombia when the US requested his extradition over drug trafficking charges.

Montealegre only had a role in the conviction of Arias for embezzling money from funds for poor farmers. The chief prosecutor also opened a criminal investigation against former Comptroller General Sandra Morelli. However, he only did this after she began investigating Montealegre’s prominent and suspicious role in the scandal surrounding health care provider SaludCoop that – with Montealegre on the payroll as legal adviser – was illegally embezzling millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, only a handful of people have been arrested for election tampering following the March congressional elections which observers have called the most corrupt in recent history. According to NGO Paz y Reconciliacion, 69 of the 266 current members of Congress are suspiciously close to known criminal organizations. Nevertheless, in spite of the serious violation of Colombians’ democratic rights, no major investigations are under way.

More importantly even, the practice of “false positives” – which has the armed forces accused of more than 4,000 extrajudicial executions to cook the war books – is hardly investigated accurately.

While dodgy former Army commander General Mario Montoya has been an informal suspect since the scandal broke in 2008, he was not even investigated until last week.

The prosecutor also fails to take seriously the fact that our current president “of peace” was defense minister between 2006 and 2009 when on average killed civilians made up more than 30 percent of reported combat kills.

The problem is not that the prosecutor general is going after Uribe allies, he should. The problem also isn’t about him going after the comptroller who revealed his shady background. A court will be able to release her of suspicion if, as she has claimed, the charges are trumped up.

The problem is that the prosecutor general is only investigating away from Santos, and his political and economic allies, virtually guaranteeing impunity as long as you stay loyal to the man in the Palace.

Adriaan-ColombiaReportsAdriaan Alsema is the founder and editor-in-chief of Colombia Reports, South America’s largest news website in English. Born and raised a Dutchman, Alsema has been living in Colombia since 2008.




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