On Friday, February 10, the minister of juctice of Colombia, Néstor Osuna, announced during an appearance in the Colombian Congress that the government of President Gustavo Petro has officially requested the government of Venezuela for the extradition of former Congresswoman Aída Merlano, accused of vote buying in her campaign for Congress.
The Colombian justice minister also highlighted the political and legal invalidity of former Colombian President Iván Duque’s earlier request of Merlano’s extradition made to “Mr. Juan Guaidó.”
“Well, I don’t want to make jokes about that matter, but the thing is that… let’s say that paperwork was lost,” the minister commented, given that at the end of last year, the Venezuelan extreme right opposition put an end to Guaidó’s “interim government.”
“Now that diplomatic relations with the country [Venezuela] have been reactivated, we have begun the process for her extradition,” Osuna explained. “This process is not fast, not because of this case, not because of the Venezuelan or Colombian legal systems, but because there is a process in Colombia, a process in Venezuela, and there are steps and legal guarantees in all countries.”
“The request has been reactivated, and in due time there will be a resolution that depends mainly on Venezuela, for it is Venezuela that would allow or deny the extradition,” he added.
Duque’s absurd request to Guaidó
On February 14, 2022, the Colombian Foreign Ministry of the Duque administration requested Merlano’s extradition from Venezuela of Merlano, after the ex-Congresswoman made allegations that Duque was trying to assassinate her.
However, the Duque government sent that request to the self-proclaimed “interim president” of Venezuela, former deputy Juan Guaidó, whom Duque had recognized as the president of Venezuela. As a result, that invalid extradition request could not proceed, and Merlano could not testify before the justice system of her country.
— Cancillería Colombia (@CancilleriaCol) February 13, 2020
The then foreign minister of Colombia, Claudia Blum, explained the procedure before Guaidó, but it was branded as “nonsense” by broad sectors inside and outside Colombia, as the mechanisms of international judicial cooperation between the governments of Colombia and Venezuela had been affected due to the suspension of binational diplomatic relations.
Merlano, who was arrested in Venezuela in January 2020 after having fled from her country, alleged that Duque was part of a corruption network, and that the former president had himself bought votes to get elected in the second round of the Colombian presidential elections of 2018.
Merlano’s allegations against Duque
Merlano stated in an interview that Julio Gerlein (businessman and former partner of Merlano), together with the Char family of Barranquilla, had bought votes for the presidential campaign of Iván Duque. She said that $6 billion was used to buy votes for Duque to get him elected in the second round of the 2018 presidential elections.
Merlano also claimed that Duque had knowledge of these illegal activities. “Of course he knew, as did all politicians who were elected,” she said.
After Merlano made these statements in Venezuela, the first criminal complaint against Duque was filed in Colombia, in 2020, in the middle of his presidency.
The complaint was filed by opposition Congressman David Racero, who quoted verbatim Merlano’s words in an interview with Semana magazine.
In view of Merlano’s revelations, some sectors of Colombian politics requested the Accusation Commission of the Congress to open an investigation into Duque’s alleged vote buying.
According to Racero, Duque may be charged with coercion, corruption, electoral fraud, as well as attempted homicide, as Merlano also made allegations about the rewards that the Duque government offered in exchange for information about her.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
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