Trending

Newsletter

Is Colombia’s Green Party Really a Champion Against Corruption?

By: Julián Villabona Galarza - Apr 14, 2017, 9:56 am

(Wikimedia)(Wikimedia)

EspañolThe Green Party is one of the most visible political parties in Colombia. After the election of 2010, when Antanas Mockus managed to run for president a second time, the party became one of the most important in the country. One of the keys to the party’s relative success is that several of its leaders have campaigned on anti-corruption rhetoric. Yet despite their purist speech, the Green Party has been mired in much of its own scandal.

The Green Party — a background history

The Green Party emerged from the Green Party Option Center. The latter is the successor to the defunct M-19 Democratic Alliance, created by several demobilized M-19 guerrillas.

Several of the founders of this new party had relationships with Luis Alberto “El Tuerto,” who founded the Citizen Convergence (nowadays Citizen Option) movement. Luis Alberto Gil was later investigated for his connections with paramilitary groups.

Party founder Carlos Ramón González was among those who were close to “Tuerto Gil” in the former Green Party Option Center. According to local media, during the first years of the party’s creation, the closeness between several of the founders and Luis Alberto Gil materialized due to their interest in environmental issues.

But links between the former Green Party and Citizen Convergence would deepen. In the parliamentary elections of 2006, the environmental movement obtained a seat reserved for political minorities of the country. Rodrigo Romero, who worked for the ex-Governor of Santander, Hugo Aguilar, won the seat.

Aguilar, a retired police officer and commander of the Search Block, had become Governor of Santander with the support of Citizen Convergence. He was also investigated and condemned for his connections to paramilitaries.

 

Principles first?

Given the important electoral victories of the Green Party Option Center, a group of independent politicians wanted to make a pact with the party in 2009. This included former mayors of Bogotá Luis Eduardo Garzón, Antanas Mockus and Enrique Peñalosa.

In 2010, Antanas Mockus surprised many by gaining significant electoral support that led him to a second run for president. He took a strong stance against corruption in a country shaken by scandals and parapolitics. Despite Mockus’ defeat in the second round, the party would remain united, though not for long.

In the local elections of 2011, Enrique Peñalosa, then-member of the Green Party, sought support from several Uribista movements. Mockus and several of his party allies withdrew support as a result. Since then, much of the Green Party has supported Santos, who was then supported by Uribe. Green Party leaders like Alfonso Prada, Luis Eduardo Garzón and Jorge Eduardo Londoño received important positions in Santos’ administration. Antanas Mockus also ended up endorsing Santos.

The Carousel of Hiring

The “Carousel of Hiring” is one of the worst corruption scandals in Bogotá’s history. It involved politicians who had assigned contracts to the Nule Group. This business group had obtained several of the most important contracts in the city thanks to bribes. As a result, Bogotá lost nearly US $686,636,569.

Former Green Party member José Juan Rodríguez was condemned for his participation in the scandal, as he allegedly intervened on the contract process. The Green Party expelled Rodriguez, but only after he was imprisoned.

Accusations again Antonio Sanguino

Rodríguez is not the only Green Party politician accused of participating in the scandal and other corrupt activity in the Garzón administration.

In 2017, the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office investigated several Bogotan politicians, including Sanguino, for their involvement in the Odebrecht scandal. He allegedly accepted money for the Tunjuelo-Canoas tunnel contract from Odebrecht. Sanguino denied any responsibility or involvement.

Conclusion

Colombian political parties are experiencing a crisis of favorability. According to a Gallup survey, 79 percent of Colombians have a negative perception of political parties. Only 14 percent of the population has a positive image of political parties, making any political renewal complicated.

The Colombian establishment elevates electoral barriers in an attempt to avoid the rise of new political parties. Certain political leaders have given up forming new parties because of the country’s restrictive laws. That was the case for Antanas Mockus, Enrique Peñalosa and Luis Eduardo Garzón — the so-called “triplets” who decided to make an electoral coalition ultimately accused of getting too close to “Tuerto Gil.”

In spite of rhetoric against corruption, many of the leaders of the Green Party supported the political establishment. Enrique Peñalosa accepted Uribe’s support in his campaign of 2011. Luis Eduardo Garzón accepted a position in the Santos government. But even more serious, the Green Party decided to support political figures being investigated for accepting bribes.

Julián Villabona Galarza Julián Villabona Galarza

Julián is a reporter with the PanAm Post with studies in Politics and International Relations from the University Sergio Arboleda in Colombia. Follow him: @julianvillabona.