A wiretapping scandal forced Petro to suspend its top government adviser


The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, going through the most difficult moment of his government, weakened in Congress after breaking his alliance with a sector of the traditional parties, confronting the Council of State, the Attorney General’s Office and part of the Press, while trying to turn to the left and direct contact with the people and seeing support drop among the youngest, who were decisive in becoming the first non-conservative president to reach the Casa de Nariño, the Colombian presidency.

In this complicated scenario, Petro had to get rid of two key figures yesterday for his rise to power: Laura Sarabia, his right-hand man in the government, and the current ambassador to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, who fulfilled that task during the electoral campaign, both very close to the president and peppered by a scandal of illegal wiretapping, conspiracy and blackmail.

Sarabia is a young lawyer, who worked with Benedetti when she was a senator and came to Petro through him. The ruler abandoned placing her as proof of her worth, in the closest position she had: that of head of office.

Thus she became one of the most powerful women in the country, but her meteoric rise has been slowed by the babysitter scandal and the illegal wiretapping ordered against her, as well as a polygraph test carried out in the same presidential palace. .

After a briefcase with thousands of dollars was stolen from Sarabia’s house, her nanny ended up being interrogated with a polygraph at the presidential headquarters and then her telephone conversations were intercepted with a false police report linking her to drug traffickers from the Clan del Golfo, from Agreement to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Benedetti, a powerful politician who supported Petro in the campaign, introduced him to his former collaborator, Sarabia, and who until today was ambassador to Venezuela joined the intricate story in an unexpected twist that leaves more questions than answers. The former officials shared the same babysitter and now accuse each other of blackmail, cheating and conspiracy.

“While the investigation is being carried out, my dear and esteemed official and the Venezuelan ambassador withdrew from the government so that from the power that these charges imply, they cannot even have the distrust that the investigation processes are going to be altered,” declared Petro. at an Army officer promotion ceremony.

“This government respects human rights, it does not illegally intercept the phones” of anyone, he repeated insistently during his speech.

“I reject the illegal interceptions, we have fought all our lives for the guarantee of human rights, that fight cost the lives of many of ours. Let these facts be investigated and what happened be clarified,” Vice President Francia Márquez tweeted, implicitly acknowledging that there was something illegal, although Petro said on the same network that “no member of the government has given any interception order telephone”.

The self-styled “government of change” was criticized for reverting to old political practices. Illegal wiretapping has marked the polarized history of Colombia in the midst of the prolonged armed conflict and Petro, along with some of his leftist ministers, were victims of it. “Here there can be no stain or even doubt that this government is going to repeat the dirt that others did,” said the president.

The president and the defense minister were recognized as victims of the so-called “shocks” of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), the intelligence service dissolved in 2011.

The DAS, which depended on the presidency, was involved under the right-wing government of Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) in a scandal over illegal wiretapping of Supreme Court magistrates, opponents and journalists.

Low hours. In power since August, the first left-wing government in the history of Colombia accumulates setbacks that have taken their toll on its popularity. According to an Invamer survey revealed this Friday, approval for his management went from 50% in November to 34% in May.

“The impact of this scandal is very strong because we are talking about a government that presented itself as change, as the representation of the nobody,” Colombian political scientist Daniela Jara Marlés, from the Latin American network No sin Mujeres, told PERFIL. “Now Benedetti and Sarabia have been removed from their positions, but the president’s tweet says that it is while the investigation is taking place, so it is not known if it is definitive and it is not known how the investigation will conclude, so, the crisis on this matter is still open”, he adds.

For another political scientist, María Lucía Jaimes, the issue “has not directly affected the support bases” of Petro, since both Sarabia and Benedetti are not strictly figures who have accompanied him throughout his political life. “The base impression of him is that he surrounded himself with bad people. What does that mean? That he is a victim of all these events that have occurred in recent months. So, I think that the issue of support and of all those who accompany him in his political project continues to be intact, despite the scandals that have been unleashed so far.

Petro renewed seven ministers in April, breaking with the traditional parties and turning to the left, amid the obstacles that his reforms face in order to become a reality in Congress.

The social reforms are stopped in Congress and the government coalition has just blown up, to the point that congressmen from the Alianza Verde party presented a proposal to archive the controversial health reform. And the president, in addition, maintains a harsh confrontation with the prosecutor, with the Council of State, with the Attorney General’s Office and even with the press, whom they attack with harsh tweets.

In an attempt to tip the scales in his favor, Petro announced that on June 7 he will walk “side by side with the working people” in a mobilization called by labor unions in defense of the reforms. That same day, Sarabia is summoned by Congress to answer for the case of the nanny, a domestic problem that reached the dimension of a government crisis.

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