The Odebrecht Corruption Scandal Is Already Shaking Up Colombia’s Presidential Vote

The Odebrecht Corruption Scandal Is Already Shaking Up Colombia’s Presidential Vote
A march against corruption in Bolivar Plaza, after revelations that Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht bribed Colombian officials and illegally financed candidates, Bogota, April 1, 2017 (AP photo by Ivan Valencia).

BOGOTA, Colombia—It was one of the biggest corporate corruption scandals in history, and its web of connections still hasn’t been fully untangled across Latin America. Having paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in political bribes in order to secure lucrative contracts at home and abroad, the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht continues to upend politics, lately in Ecuador and Peru.

But things are picking up in Colombia, too. In August, Colombia’s Supreme Court called on President Juan Manuel Santos and several former ministers to testify about Odebrecht bribes to the Colombian government that the attorney general’s office says exceed $27 million. Investigations have already revealed that both of Santos’ election campaigns, in 2010 and 2014, received money from Odebrecht.

In December, the Democratic Center party led by Santos’ predecessor and key opposition figure, Alvaro Uribe, was also implicated when a former vice minister of transportation, Gabriel Garcia Morales, was sentenced to prison for taking $6.5 million in bribes in exchange for awarding Odebrecht a road construction contract in 2010 worth more than $1 billion. Morales has promised to testify against other Colombian officials, according to the attorney general’s office.

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