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The National Electoral Council of Colombia opens a preliminary investigation against Duque for alleged infraction in the 2018 campaign

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The process started for a complaint by former senator Aída Merlano, detained in Venezuela since January 2020 and accused of vote buying.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) of Colombia opened this Tuesday a preliminary investigation against the president of that country, Iván Duque, for an alleged violation of the electoral financing regime during the 2018 presidential campaign, reported the local media outlet Semana.

The process began as a result of complaints made by former senator Aída Merlano before the Supreme Court of Justice, and also involves Luis Guillermo Echeverri, manager of Duque’s presidential campaign that year.

Merlano, detained in a prison in Venezuela and a fugitive from Colombian Justice, declared on May 3, during a virtual oral trial, that the president had received irregularly financing of political and business clans for their proselytizing project.

As stated by the former congresswoman before the Special Chamber of First Instance of the highest Colombian court, the then presidential candidate for the right-wing Democratic Center received the amount of 6,000 million pesos, nearly one and a half million dollars, contributed by the Gerlein and Char family clans, accused of monopolizing political and economic power in the city of Barranquilla, department of Atlántico , where Merlano originates from.

Faced with the accusation, the National Electoral Council ordered President Duque to hand over his own free version so that he “deposes on the facts that are the subject of controversy and present or request the evidence that he considers pertinent”.

The head of state maintains that Merlano’s remarks are “lies”, and which constitute “yet another attempt” by the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, to “dirty” his name. In addition, he said that the former parliamentarian should be extradited to Colombia to serve her sentence and, once there, say “everything she has to say” .

Merlano, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for buying votes in the 2018 parliamentary elections, escaped in October 2019 from Bogotá and was captured on January 28, 2020 in Venezuela for illegal entry into the country.

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