On Friday, March 10, Venezuelan and Colombian authorities announced that former senator of Colombia, Aida Merlano, has been deported to her country, at the request of the Colombian government. Merlano, who had fled from a Colombian prison in 2019, had been detained on January 27, 2020 in El Milagro sector of Maracaibo, in the Venezuelan state of Zulia. Since then, she was in prison in Venezuela.
“Today, ex-parliamentarian Aida Merlano is being transferred from Venezuela to Colombia,” a statement by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.
The document clarified that it was not an extradition, something that “Mr. Juan Guaidó had been requesting, a request that had no validity, but a deportation, a measure recognized by international law, carried out by the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
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The statement added that “both countries have requested the respect and full guarantee of Merlano’s rights, for which they have requested the presence of the representatives of the corresponding judicial authority and the Ombudsperson’s Office.”
Colombian Justice Minister Néstor Osuna also released a statement on Merlano’s deportation, announcing, “We have achieved her deportation from Venezuela; diplomatic efforts have led to this result. All her procedural guarantees, her life and dignity will be respected.”
#BoletínMinJusticia Logramos la deportación de Aida Merlano gracias a una gestión diplomática: @MinjusticiaCo @osunanestor https://t.co/NxdJAJELDd pic.twitter.com/5IpT13mB6h
— MinJusticia Colombia (@MinjusticiaCo) March 10, 2023
The Merlano case
Aida Merlano was elected senator of Colombia for the 2018-2022 term. She had won with 73,000 votes, with the support of two political parties, namely Conservative Party and Radical Change. However, she could not take office due to accusations of electoral fraud and vote buying.
Two days before the elections, Colombian prosecutors raided her electoral campaign headquarters and found boxes with the records of the purchased votes and the system with which her campaign kept track of the payments.
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Merlano was also accused of excessive electoral spending. While a maximum expenditure of 884 million Colombian pesos had been ratified by electoral authorities, it was found that Merlano had spent 1,730 million pesos.
She was sentenced to 15 years in prison and was also imposed a hefty fine for the crimes of vote buying, electoral fraud, and illegal possession of weapons. However, in October 2019, she escaped from imprisonment, fleeing from a dentist’s appointment.
After her recapture in Venezuela, Merlano accused then Colombian President Iván Duque of vote buying and voter fraud. In a statement to Venezuelan judicial authorities, she claimed that two politically powerful business families of her native city of Barranquilla had spent $6 billion to buy votes to get Duque elected in the second round of the 2018 presidential elections. She also claimed that Duque was trying to get her assassinated.
(RedRadioVE) by Dubraska Esteves, with Orinoco Tribune content
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
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