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Stop the presses! ‘Colombian politician in corruption scandal!’ In a country that does corruption as regularly and spectacularly as the ‘best’ of them, it’s not a very exciting announcement, is it? It’s even less so when the story comes from the country’s backwater department of Putumayo. ‘Move on, nothing to see here.’
Yet, digging a bit deeper into this distant affair, it appears there’s something a little sinister going on. The politician accused of the wrongdoing may actually be the victim. Dark forces with the state’s legal apparatus behind them conspiring to remove a governor from office as she doesn’t quite fit their agenda. That’s the thinking in some quarters anyway.
Here’s the low-down: Putumayo’s first female governor, Sorrel Aroca Rodríguez of the Allianza Verde (Green Alliance), was found to have committed irregularities in the signing of life insurance contracts for 11 deputies during her time as president of the department’s assembly in 2014. The investigating authority, La Procuraduría (Inspector General), has ordered that she be dismissed as governor and banned from serving public office for 11 years.
The amount of money in question here is 20 million Colombian pesos, about €6,000, so not exactly astronomical. Plus, it appears that there was no personal financial gain for Aroca out of this episode.
What she has been blamed of is running up additional, unnecessary costs, as well as not being transparent in her actions. Whatever the case, it certainly seems the punishment far outweighs whatever crime she may have been guilty of. Of all the corrupt things that happen here, this seems pretty mediocre.
For Aroca’s supporters, there’s more than a whiff of something underhand at work here. Her young, female face doesn’t quite fit the bill for the traditionalists, thus they want her out.
Questions have been raised over the way the case seemed to be fast-tracked through the Procuraduría’s office, in what is seen as a final hit from the old Alejandro Ordóñez regime. (Ordóñez has previous form in trying to take out those not of his own creed.)
As somebody who describes herself as a governor for a post-conflict Colombia, if it is a case of conservative forces moving against the 39-year-old, it highlights the kind of problems the country faces in trying to put a bloody past behind it.
Aroca is appealing the decision and for the many Putumayans who want her to stay on as governor, the hope is that her case will be viewed in a more favourable light under the new Fernando Carrillo-led Procuraduría.
However, should the Procuraduría’s original finding hold and Aroca is removed from office, it won’t cause too much of a stir in Bogotá’s corridors of power. Therein might lie one of the bigger problems for this new Colombia being constructed, continuing to ignore the fringes. We’ll watch this space with interest.
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