Uruguay’s Interior Minister, Luis Alberto Heber, a cabinet undersecretary, and a chief advisor to the nation’s president, Luis Lacalle Pou, have resigned amid an investigation into an international drug smuggler obtaining an Uruguayan passport in order to evade authorities.
The investigation is looking into how Marset obtained a Uruguayan passport while being held in the United Arab Emirates in late 2012 on charges regarding forged documents. Marset was later released despite being wanted in Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and the United States on drug charges.
The case has already led to the resignation of another official, Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo, who resigned on Wednesday following the release of a phone call that took place in 2022 where the ex-Foreign Minister suggested withholding evidence.
Bustillo told the former Deputy Chancellor, Caroline Ache, to “lose” her phone, which contained chat logs in which Uruguay’s Deputy Minister of the Interior, Guillermo Maciel, warned the latter of the dangers that Marset posed.
“He’s a very dangerous heavy drug trafficker,” Maciel said in the chat with Ache before the passport was issued.
Bustillo claimed on Friday that he held no knowledge of who Marset was when the passport was issued, further claiming that the responsibility lies on the interior ministry and that the foreign ministry acted correctly when providing the passport.
President Pou defended Heber, Bustillo, and other officials involved in the scandal, saying in a statement that the passport had been issued in accordance with Uruguayan law and the aforementioned officials “have no legal responsibility” regarding the passport.
“Do we like that a drug trafficker has a passport? Of course not,” Lacalle Pou told a press conference in his first public comments about the scandal. “But that is the current law.”
Bustillo would defend his statements telling Ache to lose her phone in court, claiming that he had figuratively told her to “lose” the phone in the conversation and that she “surreptitiously recorded, isolated, and decontextualized what had been happening all that time.” Bustillo would further claim that it was Ache who refused to hand over his WhatsApp in the investigation before claiming that the private messages between Maciel and Ache “lacked relevance in the processing of the passport.”
Ache further accused Roberto Lafluf, one of President Pou’s chief advisors, of summoning her in November 2022 to the 11th floor of the Palacio de López, the seat of the government, alongside Maciel. Ache claimed the presidential advisor asked them both to delete the messages exchanged about the drug dealer Marset and to certify before a notary that the conversation had not taken place. Ache refused.