Nicolas Petro, the son of Colombia’s President, Gustavo Petro, has been arrested on charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment while in office.
Nicolas was a congressman representing Colombia’s northern province of Atlantico when the charges were presented.
The charges originated in March after the State Prosecutors Office accused him of taking bribes from drug traffickers in exchange for including them in his father’s peace efforts to end the civil discord that has plagued the country for decades. The prosecution further claims Nicolas made campaign donations with dirty money, claiming that it exceeded legal limits and was not fully reported to electoral authorities.
The younger Petro pleaded not guilty to the presented charges on August 1st, forfeiting a 50% sentence reduction, bringing his maximum sentence to between 12 and 20 years if found guilty.
Nicolas’ ex-wife, Daysuris del Carmen Vasquez, has also been arrested on similar charges, which include money laundering and personal data violations. She claims that two people accused of drug trafficking gave Nicolas money for his father’s campaign.
President Petro Denies Any Involvement:
President Petro has made it clear that he does not intend to impede the investigation. “As I affirmed to the attorney general, I will not intervene nor pressure his decisions; may the law freely guide the process.” He said this on X, the social media website previously known as Twitter.
The President further claims he held no knowledge of his son’s illicit activities or the campaign donations less than lawful origins, a claim that is corroborated by his son, who vindicated his father among other figures in an interview with Semana Magazine, a Colombian news outlet.
“Neither my father nor the manager of the campaign, Ricardo Roa, knew of the money that Daysuris and I received from Santander Lopesierra and Gabriel Hilsaca.” Nicolas Petro said, “Obviously, they did not know that part of those contributions I was using for the campaign.”
Lopesierra, also known as the “Marlboro Man,” is an ex-politician and drug trafficker in Colombia. His career of trafficking stretches back since he first held office in 1988, when he supplied the city of Maicao, which is situated in north-eastern Colombia on the border with Venezuela, with cigarettes, liquor, and household appliances.
Lopesierra was later captured and imprisoned within a maximum security prison in Colombia before being extradited to the United States to face charges of smuggling over two tons of cocaine into the US. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison but was later released in 2021. Lopesierra registered as a candidate for the position of mayor of the city of Maicao on July 10th.
A Conditional Release:
Judge Omar Leonardo Beltran rejected a request from the attorney general’s office to impose house arrest on Nicolas Petro, saying that the prosecution has not substantiated the need to keep the president’s son in detention or under house arrest. The judge allowed his freedom on the condition that he does not partake in political activities; he does not leave Colombia nor his city of residence, Barranquilla. Nicolas has complied, resigning from his duties as a congressman for Colombia’s northern Atlantic province.
Nicolas’ ex-wife will also enjoy freedom while being prosecuted. According to court testimonies, Vasquez claims that alongside Petro’s political corruption, the young politician also engaged in an affair with Vasquez’s best friend, who is now carrying his child.
Why It Matters:
The younger Petro’s supposed illicit affairs have left some concerned that his scandal may negatively affect the elder Petro’s continued efforts to bring an end to the 60-year civil strife that has claimed an estimated 450,000 people’s lives. The claims that his profiteering was also connected to the president’s peace deals have furthered this worry, casting doubt on the strength and authenticity of peace agreements.
President Petro’s Final Statement:
“No one can be above the law, and justice must be applied in an impartial way, with due process and all constitutional guarantees,” President Petro said in a post on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. “Nothing and no one can stop the fight of an entire life against all forms of corruption, and the government will continue, without distraction, its work and commitment for a better Colombia.”