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  • Aida Merlano, a former congressman, speaking on the Vicky program on Semana from Caracas (Venezuela)

    Aida Merlano, a former congressman, speaking on the Vicky program on Semana from Caracas (Venezuela) | Photo: Semana

Published 17 February 2020
Opinion

During the interview, Merlano directly accused Duque was aware that the Gerlain and Char families bought votes in the Atlantic department to get him elected as president in 2017. 

Former Colombian congresswoman Aida Merlano exposed a major scheme of electoral fraud and corruption Monday during a live interview with Colombian news outlet Semana.

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Merlano, currently detained in Venezuela, went on air and reiterated that right-wing President Ivan Duque and powerful politicians want her dead and have rejected her extradition as her testimonies and evidence reveal the network of corruption that exists in the country.

"They do not want me to be extradited, because if they wanted to, they would ask the legitimate president, Nicolas Maduro, and not Guaido. It is a political and diplomatic absurdity ... to request extradition to Guaido," the former lawmaker said. 

During the interview, Merlano directly accused Duque was aware that the Gerlain and Char families bought votes in the Atlantic department to get him elected as president in 2017. 

“Julio Gerlein and the Char family bought votes to elect Duque (...) The Chars directed all the traditional politicians of the coast to purchase votes for the election of presidents of the Republic (...) Everyone bought votes to choose Duque," the former congresswoman said, adding that each vote was worth around 10,000 pesos.

Merlano recalled that Julio Gerlein told her that he had invested vast amounts in Duque's campaign in the face of his presidential aspirations. She said he invested 6,000 million pesos "and the Chars held a fundraising" between contractors. 

The Gerlein and Char families are among the most powerful economic groups in Colombia. Merlano said that Julio Gerlein - brother of Roberto Gerlein, a former Senator and career politician from the Conservative party to which Merlano belonged to - “not only bought votes, but he had ID cards, mistreated the leaders, and intimidated the people to comply with the agreements.”

The bribes of Odebrecht to the Char were made through the Torres family and the Torrosa firm, which received fictitious subcontracts of the Route of the Sun II and were taken to the elections, received as a reward the largest contract for the channeling of streams.

Julio Gerlein is being investigated in the process known as Operation ‘White House’, which was the place that served as the political headquarters for Merlano. In 2018, she was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Colombia for corruption and illegal possession of weapons, after having participated in the practice of electoral fraud.

The Colombian fugitive said that bags full of cash came to her political headquarters, "around 2.7 billion pesos arrived to finance my campaign and other candidacies in Cartagena and Santa Marta (...) The families (Gerlein and Char) also began buying signatures to support Vargas Lleras.”

Regarding Jaime Vargas Lleras, former Vice President (2014 - 2017) and career politician, Merlano said he is “involved in corruption in the bidding of the Barranquilla airport and receiving money to buy signatures for his 2018 presidential candidacy." 

As the Juan Manuel Santos administration got splashed with corruption allegations, as well, the former congresswoman stated that "the campaign for the re-election of Santos was funded by Odebrecht, he received 15,000 million from the Char-Gerlein houses for his re-election.”

Merlano mentioned that former Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez is an accomplice of Colombian corruption and knew about the contracts granted to the construction company Odebrecht, as well as the bribe" that Colombian congressmen received, "if Nestor Humberto falls he goes down with the whole political class," she added.

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