democraciaAbierta: Opinion

Colombia's Attorney General's Office is being devoured by corruption

The massive deterioration of the Attorney General Office reflects the deep degradation of the country's traditional political class.

Gustavo Petro
15 December 2020, 6.35pm
Jeso Carneiro/Flickr. March 17, 2017.
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In order for corruption to develop in a country without any major resistance from the highest levels of the State and politics, the State's judicial investigative bodies must be grabbed by the same criminal associations that steal from it.

For the country to be devoured by corruption, it has to devour justice.

In Colombia, this process took place, on a large scale, in the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation, an institution created by the 1991 Constitution. Under the excuse of gaining instruments against crime, large international agencies advised it in the fight against drug trafficking and pumped in it with considerable resources.

The empowerment of the prosecutor's office was the main challenge in the fight against organized crime. However, it became the best instrument of big-scale organized crime: the political mafias.

Large national budgets were approved to create, develop, and strengthen it. The empowerment of the prosecutor's office was the main challenge in the fight against organized crime. However, this power became, precisely, the best instrument of big-scale organized crime: the political mafias.

The prosecutor's office became politicized and therefore corrupt. Some of the general prosecutors who worked there decided to get along with a Congress that was distributing political quotas, handing over sectional prosecutors' offices. Those prosecutors thought they could be presidents like Attorney Alfonso General Valdivieso, and used the office for that purpose, at first naively, until Luis Camilo Osorio arrived.

Osorio, a conservative, had just taught at the University of Sinu and had developed a close relationship with Mara Bechara (former dean, accused of corruption) and Salvatore Mancuso (a former paramilitary chief). Before becoming a prosecutor, he had been portrayed in a demonstration that Mancuso's entourage had thrown in Montería when CTI (Technical Investigation Team) agents raided his house, during the Attorney General Gómez Méndez’s term.

Luis Camilo Osorio was demonstrating against the Attorney General's actions against the paramilitaries and ended up, after a few weeks, becoming the Attorney General himself.

Paramilitary weight

At the Office of the Attorney General under Osorio, one of the most conspicuous episodes of the prosecution's capyure by organized crime occurred. Osorio put the Office at the service of paramilitarism. He handed over entire sectionals to friends of paramilitarism. The most famous cases were those of Antioquia and Norte de Santander departments, the latter being strategic for Mancuso's takeover of the Catatumbo region to export cocaine through the Gulf of Maracaibo.

All the prosecutors who fought against paramilitarism during Gomez Mendez's Office were fired, many went into exile, some were killed. The most important national anti-paramilitary trial, known as the "Padilla parking lot," where paramilitary accountant Jacinto Soto was captured holding thousands of checks from paramilitary financiers. The case was torn up, and much of the evidence was lost. The paramilitaries owned the Attorney General's office.

Mancuso's confessions corroborated my allegations about the paramilitary takeover of the Attorney’s Office, but no one involved was ever put in jail.

In Costa Rica, one of Osorio's advisors led a meeting, attended by several judges, with the aim of providing a document that would allow the legal defense of a possible pardon for the paramilitaries under the thesis that the crime of drug trafficking was related to political crime.

The paramilitary influence on the Attorney General's Office reached such a point that even during the Uribe administration, lists of suspected guerrillas were handed over from Attorney’s Osorio's Office to the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) directed by Jorge Noguera. Noguera would hand over the lists to the paramilitary, and the members of the list would be killed.

Mancuso's confessions corroborated my allegations about the paramilitary takeover of the Attorney’s Office, but no one involved was ever put in jail.

The one who was put in jail was Richard Maok Riaño, the CTI official who wrote a list of dozens of members of the Attorney General's Office with ties to paramilitarism, crossing the incoming and outgoing calls from various telephones of the captured or dead paramilitaries with the Attorney's Office officials. Mr. Maok gave highly valuable information to Osorio, his boss, but ended up being fired by him, persecuted from within the Attorney General's Office and condemned by the courts, and finally taken refuge in another country.

Politicians allied with paramilitary drug trafficking in specific regions of the country achieved impunity for their crimes by co-opting the regional prosecutors' offices. That's why they were not investigated.

The politicians who approached Osorio to ask him to appoint them as sectional heads of the Attorney General's Office were precisely the “para-politicians”- Politicians allied with paramilitary drug trafficking in specific regions of the country who achieved impunity for their crimes by co-opting the regional prosecutors' offices. That is why the massacres were not investigated.

The legal method that guaranteed impunity was to analyze each murder individually, and not to establish processes to find the link to the murder’s systemic nature in the regions. By dividing up the processes for individual killings, there were no witnesses and, if there were any, they were killed.

When the Osorio period ended, Uribe said he wanted a clone of Osorio in the Office again. Then, a few years later, the Attorney General's office fell to Néstor Humberto Martínez, Luis Carlos Sarmiento's lawyer.

The policy that had been dominated by paramilitarism had been transformed into the policy of large state contractors.

The owners of the Attorney’s office changed, the paramilitaries had already weakened in their deal with Uribe, who disgraced them by extraditing them, and so new criminal organizations of another kind arrived.

The policy that had been dominated by paramilitarism, which was nothing more than a militarized form of drug trafficking that dispossessed land, had been transformed into the policy of large state contractors.

The dollar laundering system that had been practiced with the land had the limit of the land itself and of the dreadful degree of concentration that it reached. Then, when the land was no longer of use, new forms of dollar laundering were imposed in the country with the support of the traditional political class.

Public procurement

Thus, following the Mexican model, public procurement was imposed as a new system of dollar laundering in Colombia.

With fossil fuel prices on the rise, the State was financing itself more and more abundantly. The growth of oil and coal production filled the State coffers and the elite in power was indulging itself in exempting the most powerful from taxes.

The resources of royalties, profits from the oil and coal corporations, the taxes on these activities, and oil and coal income to the country, generated an abundant source of liquidity for the bankers, who saw their power grow.

Without much land to grab, public contracting became a golden opportunity for dollar laundering and rent capture.

The bankers were not satisfied with simply depositing these resources in their banks to trade them in credits. They decided to co-participate with large contractor octopuses that were configured throughout the country. Not only did the oil money arrive in full hands, but also the drug trafficking money.

Without much land to grab, public contracting became a golden opportunity for dollar laundering and rent capture, as economists say, i.e., theft of public resources.

This is how recruitment cartels were formed. To get a contract, the politician and the ruler were bribed with the same contract money, which left a financial gap that was only solved by extending the terms of the contracted work, renegotiating contracts, or acquiring new contracts, which, in turn, implied new bribes. Just as in a house of cards, the big contract cartels were being built, always under the protection of an eminent politician, an eminent ruler.

Uribe privileged the Nule, Solarte, and William Velez cartels, and Velez got a juicy jewel for drug trafficking: the privatized El Dorado airport. The Moreno Rojas forged a local cartel in Bogotá with their business friends Tapias and Gómez. Vargas Lleras forged the one of electricity and cleaning with the Ríos, and then the one of the big builders; his ally Char, had forged one in Barranquilla and had extended it to the whole Coast. Any mayor could forge his own on a scale of the municipality's resources.

The piñata was unleashed. The cartels were castles of cards, fragile due to their financial gaps, those gaps being nothing more than the volumes of corruption: the financial gaps measured the transfer of public money that by hundreds of millions of dollars passed on to the politicians and rulers.

Drug trafficking, oil, and public money filled the coffers of corruption. Somehow all that money reached the banks and therefore the bankers, who gladly lent enormous amounts of money to the contractors of the country's infrastructure projects.

The bankers, therefore, became contracting partners.

Odebrecht

The infrastructure projects were not finished, it could not possibly be of quality and they were not what the country needed. There was no care in planning such large investments. What mattered was that the works were expensive, so that everybody could get their share. That's why the country was filled with dual lane roads for inefficient, big trucks and not with railroads; that's why large urbanizations were developed where there were no services, where people couldn't live, that's why bridges fell, that's why it didn't occur to anyone to invest in university campuses, or in public hospitals, or in environmental and water improvement.

Out of those big contractor cartels came Odebrecht, which had already built one on an American scale, bribing several Latin American presidents. Odebrecht came in under Uribe, partnered with Luis Carlos Sarmiento, Colombia's largest banker, dislodged the Nule cartel from the president's favoritism, and bribed a good chunk of the traditional political class leadership. Odebrecht bought two governments, Uribe's and Santos'. It financed all Uribism's presidential candidates, from Arias to Duque, who strangely vanished when they financed Zuluaga.

Colombia was the only country where the investigation of Odebrecht's bribes was not scooped out.

Well, this new form of criminality seized the Attorney General's Office through Odebrecht/Sarmiento consortium’s lawyer: Néstor Humberto Martínez.

Large contractors and bribed politicians needed impunity and knew that it was granted by the Attorney's Office. In an odd consensus between Santos, Vargas-Lleras and Uribe, the Odebrecht Public Prosecutor was allotted. Colombia was the only country where the investigation of Odebrecht's bribes was not scooped out. Here, only middle-ranking officers were arrested and received minimal sentences.

The grid of impunity built up in the Attorney's office, which had protected paramilitarism and its drug trafficking business in Osorio's time, now sheltered bribes from the large networks of corruption in public contracting. The Nule guys were harshly punished so that they would leave free contracting space to Odebrecht and Conalvias, Uribe's new protégés. The Bogotá contracting cartel was punished harshly to discredit the left, yet avoiding, at all costs, its members going on to charge the big national cartels of the Ríos and of William Vélez.

The Odebrecht prosecutor was also a militant of Cambio Radical, and therefore devoted himself to protecting the financiers of the party owners: Vargas-Lleras and of those who would be its new owners, the Chars. That is why the Ríos were not investigated, nor were the bribes from Odebrecht to the Chars, nor the bribes from the owner of the triple-A, nor Reficar, nor the bribes from Odebrecht to Bogotá's comptroller general, because it was a fundamental asset of Vargas Lleras to get the person who writes these columns out of the political way.

The Odebrecht prosecutor needed other bodies of Justice to do his job and so he put in the command posts nothing less than the fundamental asset of the toga cartel in the Supreme Court of Justice, Mr. Gustavo Moreno, the new anti-corruption prosecutor, who helped bribe the judges of the Court to free parapolitical congressmen.

Mr. Gustavo Moreno, while helping to dismantle the parapolitical processes in the Supreme Court with his friendly and well-paid magistrates, worked intensely, by order from above, to persecute the author of this article.

The Odebrecht prosecutor ended up conspiring against the peace process with the ELN guerrilla and got into the adventure of building false evidence

The Odebrecht prosecutor had completed solid legal defense arrangements with the country's major powers, who also coincidentally had huge fears that the Special Justice for Peace, established by the Peace Agreement's president Santos, achieved with the Farc guerrilla, would be open to so-called third-party declarations, as are known those who had financed the genocide in Colombia and the violent land concentration in their hands via the dispossession of peasants. To defend his former powerful clients, Mr. Moreno devoted himself to conspire against peace.

Odebrecht’s prosecutor put an end to a possible peaceful dismantling of drug trafficking, opposing the development of the figure of collective submission for drug traffickers, thus the Gulf cartel in place, which called for negotiation and is now being pressured to kill the Colombia Humana party.

The Odebrecht prosecutor ended up conspiring against the peace process with the ELN guerrilla and got into the adventure of building false evidence with the DEA to destroy Márquez, Naranjo, and several Venezuelan generals, using a piece of information that Márquez's nephew, the con man Marlon Marín, put at his service.

Peace’s dream

Thus, the dream of peace in Colombia also evaporated.

The analysis of the 24,000 hours of the recording made by the prosecution to Marlon Marín, the nephew of Iván Márquez, shows how the prosecution built a huge laundering operation of millions of fictitious dollars in Venezuela and that, according to the conversations recorded between Marín and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, reached out to the financing of the opposition to Erdogan in Turkey, perhaps with the purpose of building a network against Iran and Venezuela, with the set-up of the “cartel de los soles”, to which General Naranjo and the Farc would join.

A fictitious operation of laundering dollars on an intercontinental scale, recorded between the server of the public prosecutor's office and the DEA, pretending it to be between the Farc and the Mexican drug cartels, an operation that no longer tastes like Néstor Humberto's Creole politics, but like somebody based in the United States with close ties to something similar that happened in the past, the man of the Iran/Contras scandal in Nicaragua

If the prosecutor's office guarantees impunity for Gaviria and Char, two entire benches of Congress, the liberal and Cambio Radical, will go on to support Ivan Duque and thus obtain a solid parliamentary majority.

And amid these world-class tricks, the Odebrecht prosecutor had to resign because the Supreme Court couldn't take him anymore. The Odebrecht prosecutor was succeeded by Barbosa, Duque’s prosecutor, who once again follows Néstor Humberto's model.

Barbosa and Duque know about the power of the prosecution not to discover the crime, but to cover it up, and they have used that power. Not only to avoid investigating La Merlano, who they now accuse of being a Castro-Chavista, when in reality he was a Gerleincharista who denounced the purchase of votes by the Char and Gerlein cartels for Duque. Not only to hide the financing that Duque's childhood friend, aka "El Ñeñe" Hernández, partner of the boss Armando Gnecco, made to his campaign, but also to make a move worthy of Néstor Humberto: to get a majority in Congress to approve the government's laws, using the power of extortion.

Not investigating Odebrecht means not investigating Cesar Gaviria's son and the financing with bribes of a sector of liberalism. And, not investigating Odebrecht means not investigating the bribes to the Chars through the signatures of Mr. Javier Mauricio Torres Vergara in the Torrosa and Inversiones Torrosa Ltd. consortium.

Poker truant play. If the prosecutor's office guarantees impunity for Gaviria and Char, two entire benches of Congress, the liberal and Cambio Radical, will go on to support Duque and thus obtain a solid parliamentary majority. This is how Colombian laws are being made.

Against Colombia Humana

And finally, and for now, from this massive deterioration of the Attorney General Office, which reflects the deep degradation of the country's traditional political class, plunged in genocide, drug trafficking and gigantic theft of public resources, the power of the Attorney's Office will be directed against the Colombia Humana party, seeking how to find evidence to prosecute it and prosecute me. They have been in that effort for eight years now.

Colombia Humana commits itself to present a list of three candidates for the Attorney General Office with the greatest possible record in the fight against corruption.

They have unleashed an offensive against any official of the Bogotá Humana that they find in their archives, dreaming of intimidating the author of these pages. Let them search and search!

But if we survive, and if the people want to, this criminal association that they want to turn the Attorney General Office into to cover up major crimes against the country's heritage will change. If it governs the country in 2022, Colombia Humana commits itself to present a list of three candidates for the Attorney General Office with the greatest possible record in the fight against corruption: It will be the anti-corruption list. The Attorney General will be a person who truly faces the task of prosecuting crime, big crime, and corruption.

The Attorney's office will no longer be an instrument of crime and with its honest officials, it will be at the service of the security of citizens, their property, their common patrimony, the treasury.

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