Ex-Colombia ministers convicted of bribes on behalf of Uribe

AP News
Posted: Apr 15, 2015 6:44 PM
Ex-Colombia ministers convicted of bribes on behalf of Uribe

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia's Supreme Court convicted two close aides of former President Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday of bribing lawmakers to support the conservative leader's 2006 re-election.

Former Interior Minister Sabas Pretelt and Social Protection Minister Diego Palacio were each sentenced to more than six years in jail.

A former congresswoman in 2008 accused the Uribe aides of offering her favors and political appointments in exchange for supporting the lifting of a constitutional ban on presidential re-election. The legislation was approved and Uribe became the first Colombian president in over 100 years to stand for re-election, winning easily thanks to his U.S.-backed military offensive against leftist rebels.

The congresswoman, Yidis Medina, was a Uribe supporter but revealed her misgivings in a 2008 interview, saying the president's aides failed to deliver on a promise to name allies to key administrative positions.

Uribe is being looked at in the same case by a congressional committee responsible for investigating former presidents.

Pretelt and Palacio join a half dozen other top Uribe aides, including his former agriculture minister and a peace commissioner, who have either been convicted or are under investigation for corruption and ethical breaches. All claim their innocence and say they are victims of political persecution by President Juan Manuel Santos, who succeeded Uribe in 2010.

On Friday, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down sentences in the case of two other Uribe aides, including his chief of staff and the former head of Colombia's intelligence agency, for organizing a spying ring that illegally intercepted the communications of some of the conservative leader's top opponents.