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A new attorney general in Colombia: right-wing fear

The capture of the Colombian state by clans and wealthy families is the most valuable asset that those who form part of what they are calling the “Colombian establishment” are willing to defend.


Francisco Barbosa. Photo Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons License.

Germán Ayala Osorio*


To this effect, they always need “pet” prosecutors, those who are friends of the president of the Republic and with some influence in the Supreme Court of Justice, a judicial body that selects the nation’s attorney general from the short list of three sent by the head of state. Speaking in Colombia of “pet” prosecutors shows the unyielding power of the president of the Republic and the devious election mechanism in which the Supreme Court of Justice is involved, a judicial body that did not escape penetration by the mafioso ethos. Remember the toga cartel even influenced presidents of this High Court and several judges.

I will make a short list of legally relevant facts, which have clearly, and according to serious journalistic investigation and with judicial verdicts and delays, ended by favouring powerful families, the fruit of this pernicious relationship that sparked little genuine concern from the ultra-right wing senator, Maria Fernanda Cabal, because of Petro having a “pet” prosecutor.

The Odebrecht case. For this case, Attorney Generals Néstor Humberto Martínez Neira and Francisco Barbosa, prevented members of the Sarmiento Angulo family being brought to justice, which meant putting the institutions of the prosecutor’s office to the service of this family’s interests.

It must be noted that recently, Grupo Aval acknowledged before American authorities that they committed crimes, which caused economic sanctions of millions and the obligation to collaborate with the federal investigation open in the USA.

The case of former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez. Perhaps this is the most obvious case in which Attorney-General Barbosa’s decision to put the nation’s attorney general’s office at the disposal of the former president and former prisoner’s (he was under house arrest) defence should be noted.

On three occasions, under direct orders of attorney general Francisco Barbosa, the judges were asked for preclusion of the case in which Uribe Vélez was involved as the accused for crimes of procedural fraud and witness manipulation. The Char case. Journalistic investigations connected members of the powerful political clan from Barranquilla with the Sinaloa cartel’s money laundering. The prosecutor’s silence is outrageous. Prosecutor Barbosa and the attorney general’s office kept this silence in relation to reports by journalist Gonzalo Guillén, suggesting a joint operation between prosecutors and the paramilitary drug trafficking group, known as the Gulf clan (Clan del Golfo).

The conservative and Uribista senator (Uribista is the name given to followers of former President Alvaro Uribe), Maria Fernanda Cabal, in a recent interview with the website Semana, expressed her concern about the election of the nation’s attorney general “…He is going to try to tighten things up, but the more dangerous thing is that Petro, with a prosecutor, will bring a lot of complications to this country. A Petro with a prosecutor, who has accusations of persecution in his background, complicates this country much more.”

Reading between the lines, it is easy to infer several issues: firstly, that the member of congress recognises that the presidents in Colombia appoint attorney generals, despite the constitutional election mechanism from the cabinet, shared by the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ).

The pro-Uribe faction, of which Cabal is a part, has been appointing the attorney general of the nation for years, which has guaranteed several members of powerful families and political clans were saved from investigation and accusations for the now undeniable public-private corruption. We only have to recall Luis Camilo Osorio, Néstor Humberto Martínez and the current and outgoing prosecutor, Francisco Barbosa, who are all friends of the current former president, Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

The second issue has to do with the concern that Cabal has about President Petro’s decision to combat public-private corruption and the action of reclaiming the State “for the people”, a statement that implies taking it away from the political mafias. They are, in many ways, by action or omission, connected with the pernicious operation of justice and with powerful families and political clans that remain silent in the face of scandalous acts of corruption.

A third interpretation of the given opinion is anchored to what the most notable member of the Colombian Establishment may be thinking about the possibility that Petro has his own “pet” prosecutor, according to Cabal’s speech, as a way of putting pressure on the most powerful people in Colombia, to allow it to make the social reforms that the country needs. Are they thinking about overthrowing Petro? Or do they prefer to reach a national agreement with the President of the Republic, to avoid “bringing a lot of complications to the country,” as Senator María Fernanda Cabal warns?

Gustavo Petro. Photo from Usaid U.S / Flickr. Creative Commons License.

For now, the most important thing is that the SCJ does its job and elects the one who will be the nation’s new attorney general. Whoever is elected will have the ethical, moral and political obligation to remove corrupt prosecutors and investigators from the attorney general’s office and to manage to restore Colombians’ confidence in the institution. If the new attorney general decides to open investigations that were filed in an interested manner by Barbosa or Martínez Neira, this does not make her a friend of Petro. On the contrary, she will be a heroine in a country where being corrupt pays and to such an extent.

*German Ayala: Journalist, columnist, author of the blog La Otra Tribuna.

(Translated by Donna Davison. Email: Pixabay

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