Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

A get-out-of-jail-free card

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on November 23, 2010

by The Economist – Americas View, November 22nd, 2010.

María del Pilar Hurtado was a central figure in Colombia’s investigation of the spying and corruption scandals that erupted during the presidency of Álvaro Uribe, who left office in August. She served for a year as the director of DAS, the country’s domestic intelligence agency, before resigning in 2008 following reports that the service had illegally wiretapped conversations of opposition politicians on her watch. Mr Uribe says he did not know the spying was taking place. But former DAS employees have testified that some of the president’s closest aides told Ms Hurtado to conduct the wiretaps and received the resulting reports. Colombian pundits have eagerly speculated about whether she would implicate Mr Uribe if she is charged.

That question will not be answered anytime soon. On October 31st Ms Hurtado travelled to neighbouring Panama, where she applied for asylum, citing fear for her safety. Ricardo Martinelli, the country’s president and a personal friend of Mr Uribe’s, granted her request on November 19th—just days before Colombia’s general prosecutor was set to indict her. The only justification given in the  official decree was promoting “social and political stability in the region”. Mr Martinelli later added that Ms Hurtado had “helped Panama very much” as the leader of DAS. Ms Hurtado had previously told a columnist forSemana, a newsmagazine, that Mr Uribe had encouraged her to flee the country and seek asylum. (continue reading… )

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