Vote-buying scandal in colombia: two presidents and a drug lord

President Ivan Duque apparently had votes bought during the 2018 election campaign. The drug dealer who did it for him has since been murdered.

Elected president of Colombia with the help of illegal vote buying? Ivan Duque Photo: reuters

If it weren’t for the corona virus, Colombia would have just one topic right now: the scandal about bought votes in the 2018 presidential election campaign. The protagonists: a murdered drug trafficker, a former president and the current president Ivan Duque.

During the 2018 election campaign, the rich cattle rancher, high-society member and drug trafficker Jose Guillermo Hernandez, known as nene, allegedly bought votes on the Caribbean coast in favor of the current ruling Centro Democratico party. Its candidate Ivan Duque became president. The vote-buying is said to be documented by audio recordings. The client is said to be former president and current senator alvaro Uribe. The Supreme Court has now initiated investigations against Uribe.

The journalist Gonzalo Guillen brought the whole thing to light a good two weeks ago. He denounced Uribe. Since then, more and more scandalous details have come to light. Guillen and other journalists who reported on the allegations have been threatened and persecuted.

The audios are a byproduct of legal wiretaps on Hernandez’s cell phone for a murder and Hernandez’s involvement in a major Caribbean drug and smuggling ring. The recordings had been available for months but were not forwarded. Hernandez himself, who was married to a beauty queen, was murdered in Brazil in 2019 under dubious circumstances.

Uribe and Duque deny everything

Ex-President Uribe and President Duque both deny knowing about nene Hernandez’s drug dealings. This seems unlikely because the criminal police had been investigating him for money laundering and drug trafficking since 2007, and the U.S. was also after him for that. He appears in important places in the organizational charts of convicted drug lords.

Uribe and Duque also deny closeness or even friendship with nene Hernandez. But more and more photos are becoming known that show him arm in arm with Duque, Uribe, other high-ranking politicians* of the Centro Democratico, police and military officers, and Vallenato stars. He was flown by military plane to an appointment in March 2019, the army admitted.

Hernandez was even invited to Duque’s inauguration. When he was assassinated in Brazil, Uribe condoled. On the most incriminating of the audios, a woman speaks to Hernandez: Uribe’s close advisor MarIa Claudia Daza.

alvaro Uribe is still one of the most powerful people in Colombia. He and his family have not only amassed huge estates. Uribe’s term in office included the scandal of the falsos positivos: thousands of civilians murdered by soldiers and passed off as guerrillas. Many Colombians still revere him today because he cracked down on the guerrillas and increased security in some parts of the country.

Duque’s popularity down to 23 percent

In October 2019, the Supreme Court decided to officially open investigations against Uribe for bribing witnesses. The witnesses were to prove Uribe’s links to paramilitary structures. Several of Uribe’s confidants and family members were convicted as a result.

Investigations against Uribe have so far come to nothing. One witness who was to testify to Uribe’s links to paramilitaries was murdered, and two survived assassination attempts. Uribe is the first ex-president in Colombia’s history to be investigated by the Supreme Court.

Now comes the investigation into the "nenepolItica," as Colombian media have christened the scandal. It ties in with the allegations made by fugitive AIda Merlano, who was convicted of vote buying. In a video sent from Venezuela, the politician had claimed that powerful families from the Caribbean coast – with whom nene was also linked – had financed vote buying in favor of Duque in the region.

President Duque was Uribe’s preferred candidate – and virtually unknown until before his election. Today his popularity ratings are just 23 percent. During the election campaign, Duque had called for prison sentences for electoral fraud. So far, he denies all accusations.

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