Demonstrations continue in Colombia demanding resignation of attorney general

Attorney general Néstor Humberto Martínez is accused of hiding information regarding bribes paid by Odebrecht to Colombian politicians to get the contract of a 2 billion dollars highway project

January 30, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Protests demanding the resignation of Nestor Humberto Martínez, Attorney General of Colombia. Photo: Alicia Méndez / EL TIEMPO

On January 29, hundreds of Colombians once again took the streets of Bogota and other cities, demanding the resignation of attorney general Néstor Humberto Martínez. He is accused of concealing information about Colombian politicians involved in a 2 billion dollars corruption scandal with Odebrecht, a Brazilian multinational construction company.

A main demonstration was held outside the office of the attorney general, where people protested with candles and flashlights to “show the way” to Martínez so that he can leave office. “Get out, get out, get out attorney general, resign” was the slogan that could be heard throughout the demonstration. The protests were called for by different social activists and left-wing political sectors through social media under the #ChaoFiscal [#GoodByeAttorneyGeneral] and #29FiscalRenuncie [#29AttorneyGeneralQuits].

“In addition to the clarity in the Odebrecht case which we know has a conflict of interest, we also need to know the truth, we want transparency in relation to investigations related to the corruption of the toga cartel, the systematic murders of social leaders and the attack on the Santander General School (…) this is a peaceful protest”, said Maria Fernanda Carrascal, a renowned social activist and one of the organizers of the protest.

These protests were the second round of mobilizations against Martínez. Earlier this month, on January 11, thousands of angry Colombians hit the streets across major cities of Colombia. In Bogota, protesters had even burned the attorney’s flag.

The Odebrecht company is at the center of one of the biggest transnational corruption scandals of recent times in Latin America. In 2016, the company admitted paying nearly 800 million dollars in bribes to politicians to secure government contracts in 12 countries. In Colombia, Odebrecht partnered with Aval Group, a banking company, to construct a highway in central Colombia, a project worth 2 billion dollars. Martínez was then a legal adviser of Aval Group. Martínez is accused of hiding information regarding bribes paid by Odebrecht to politicians to get the contract of the said project. There is proof against Martínez, which was made public in November 2018, after the deaths of Jorge Enrique Pizano, one of the prime witnesses and his son Alejandro Pizano. The suicide committed by Rafael Merchán, another witness, in the last week of December, days before the hearing, further complicated the case.