In the 1980s, the Medellín Cartel, also known as Los Extraditables, financed the M-19, a left-wing guerrilla group, to take over Colombia’s Palace of Justice. The idea of the Medellín Cartel was to generate anxiety in society and bury the extradition to the United States, the goal of the M-19 was to bring then-president Belisario Betancur to trial.
Almost 40 years later, the brother of one of the former members of the M-19 and now presidential candidate, Gustavo Petro, was seen entering the extraditable wing of La Picota prison in Bogotá, revealing a new pact between the country’s mafias and the radical left-wing of the Colombian left.
According to journalist Ricardo Calderón, of local radio station Caracol Radio, Juan Fernando Petro, (the presidential candidate’s brother) met on April 8 in the south wing of La Picota prison with Iván Moreno, a politician convicted of corruption in Bogotá, and Álvaro García, another politician sentenced to 40 years in prison for facilitating the Macayepo massacre perpetrated by extreme right-wing Paramilitary organizations under the command of Carlos Castaño.
According to a Caracol source, “They were offering them a 20% reform of justice, and to close the judges of execution of sentences” to the convicted in exchange for testimonies in order to muddy the other candidates to the presidency of Colombia.
Petro’s first reaction was to deny the facts and say that he hadn’t ordered anyone to meet with Iván Moreno in La Picota. Then, Petro’s campaign affirmed that it was a visit programmed by an NGO, the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace, to obtain testimonies from actors of the armed conflict for studies of the country’s historical memory.
Realizing the explanation didn’t resonate much with voters, Petro claimed that he was designing a “social pardon in Colombia” for criminals, a euphemism that he did not bother much to explain, as even his own close associates described it as a “gaffe.”
Apart from a few mentions, the visit to the prisoners of Juan Fernando Petro was not referenced again by the media and Petro passed to the second round with 41%.
With the passage of Rodolfo Hernandez to the second round, the electoral perspectives that gave Petro as the winner began to unfavor the leftist leader, whom pollsters put in a technical tie with Hernandez.
Senator from Gustavo Petro’s party confesses to conversations with Los Extraditables cell
Although Petro had managed to narrow the electoral gap with Hernandez in the last week, availing himself of a campaign of attacks on his rival’s reputation, a new leak of a conversation from his campaign could cost him the presidency.
In the video leaked by Semana magazine, Pacto Histórico senator Roy Barreras is seen confessing that people from the political movement went to negotiate judicial perks in prison in the Los Extraditables pavilion.
“Eduardo, there are visits to the prisons, to the pavilion of extraditables, from people of Pacto Histórico offering non-extradition to extraditables… they met in the pavilions,” said senator Roy Barrera, in meeting with Eduardo Noriega (former advisor of Gustavo Petro when he was mayor of Bogotá), leftist senator Clara López and congressman Roosvelt Rodríguez.
In the meeting, Barreras also confesses to being seeking testimonies from drug traffickers from the Oficina de Envigado —a criminal organization from Medellín— to testify against candidate Federico Gutiérrez.
In another fragment of the video, former Senator Lopez can be seen complaining about Petro’s inability to say he would not prohibit extradition in an interview. “You can say no and then change your mind,” López said.
The meeting occurred before Juan Fernando Petro’s visits to La Picota prison became known. Anticipating the facts in the middle of the meeting, Barreras said that it is necessary to “prepare for a scandal and anticipate the political outburst and avoid giving explanations to the press.”