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Human Rights

Crisis in Colombia: Gustavo Petro faces accusations of illegal wiretapping and abuse of power

As a consequence, both his ambassador to Venezuela and his chief of staff were removed from their posts

Presidente de Colombia, Gustavo Petro
Presidente de Colombia, Gustavo Petro | EFE

June 5, 2023 8:51am

Updated: June 5, 2023 8:51am

Colombian President Gustavo Petro is in the midst of a serious political  crisis after announcing this Friday, the removal of two officials involved in a scandal related to illegal wiretapping and abuse of power against a babysitter.

At the center of the controversy is the Chief of Staff, Laura Sarabia, and the Ambassador to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, who were involved in a case of theft of a briefcase with money and alleged irregularities.

The scenario broke out when Marelbys Meza, Sarabia's babysitter, was accused of having stolen a briefcase with an unspecified amount of money from the official's residence. At first, $4,000 in missing funds were reported, but the amount then increased to $7,000.

Later, through a message on Twitter, Benedetti reported the figure was $30,000.

Presidente de Colombia, Gustavo Petro, y la jefa de gabinete Laura Sarabia
Presidente de Colombia, Gustavo Petro, y la jefa de gabinete Laura Sarabia | EFE

Later, Meza was interrogated and subjected to polygraph tests without a warrant, raising suspicions of abuse of power.

Reports have speculated her phone may have also been illegally intercepted by police as part of an investigation against the Clan del Golfo criminal gang that was being used as a pretense to monitor Meza. 

Ambassador Benedetti was identified as the alleged instigator of the ex-nanny's complaints, which has generated speculation about a possible conflict within the government.

El embajador en Venezuela, Armando Benedetti
El embajador en Venezuela, Armando Benedetti | EFE

Benedetti and Sarabia had conflicts related to positions in the government, which generated tension between them, according to reports.

The situation was further complicated when it was revealed that Meza previously worked for Benedetti but was transferred to work for Sarabia, creating suspicion and tension. 

Petro has since announced the suspension of Sarabia and Benedetti from their positions to ensure transparency in the ongoing investigations.

"While the investigation is being carried out, my dear and esteemed official and the Venezuelan ambassador are withdrawing 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," Petro said. at a military promotion ceremony in Bogotá.

Petro emphasized that his government will not tolerate illegal practices and pledged to respect human rights and the law. However, this scandal represents the worst crisis the Colombian president has faced since he took office ten months ago.

The case of Sarabia, a 29-year-old lawyer who became one of the most influential figures in the Petro government, has drawn attention due to alleged irregularities and abuse of state power.

The situation has sparked a wave of criticism of Petro, further weakening his position. This scandal adds to the multiple problems he faces, including the paralysis of social reforms in Congress, the breakdown of the ruling coalition and constant disapproval of his management, which reaches 33.8%.