Colombian politicians have given the media much to talk about in the last couple of weeks. Aside from the uproar that Congressman Juan Manuel Corzo sparked over his “fuel subsidy,” now Samuel Moreno Rojas, the former mayor of Bogotá who was banned from running for office [es] as of May, has been sent to prison [es] while facing accusations of embellishment, fraud, and extortion after some irregularities found in contracts for the third phase of Transmilenio, Bogotá’s bus rapid transit. While his trial on corruption charges is pending, President Juan Manuel Santos appointed Claudia López Obregón as mayor-in-charge until a new major is elected in October.
Moreno clinched the country’s second most important executive office by pledging the construction of a long-awaited metro system, hence granting his former left-leaning political party, the Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA in Spanish), a second administration in a row. But the so-called contracting carousel given to the Nule Group [es] forced PDA to expel Moreno and apologize [es] to those who voted for him, stating that “sadly, the Mayor drifted away from the unity’s ideal, and he didn’t rule according to the party’s pragmatic vote and orientations.”
It is not the first time the Morenos have been involved in political scandals. The mayor’s grandfather, Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, took over the presidency in the mid-50s through the only military coup in Colombia’s modern history and whose then-political party turned out to be one of the most fearful insurgent groups, the M-19, after losing the 1970 presidential bid. Today, Moreno’s brother, Ivan, is also facing charges [es] under the contracting carousel, as well as his mother, Maria Eugenia “La Capitana” Rojas [es].
Indeed, their political stripe and current bribing scandal captivated several bloggers’ attention. La Silla Vacía [es] (The empty chair), for example, looks at the Morenos’ timeline in politics and their declining reputation:
La gran fuerza que lograron los Moreno Rojas que comenzó en la presidencia de Ernesto Samper, después de 1994, se fue cayendo poco a poco. Así como, según lo dice Alberto Donadío en su libro el ‘Uñilargo’, el general Gustavo Rojas Pinilla mantuvo su poderío gracias a la corrupción, sus nietos hoy están en la cárcel por esas mismas costumbres”.
The Economist, in one its blog, explains that the political party Moreno once belonged to needs new alternatives:
Legal left-wing parties have never had it easy in Colombia, which has been fighting a Marxist insurgency for nearly five decades…Until the Democratic Alternative Pole comes together or is replaced by a new democratic alternative party, its supporters’ views will not be sufficiently represented in Colombian politics.
Americas Quarterly says this bribery scandal has meant enormous expenses for the city:
This is the most expensive corruption scandal in the history of Bogotá. The attorney general estimates, for example, that transferring the Transmilenio contract from Transvial to Vías Bogotá, which was done under the authorization of the IDU and benefited the Nule brothers, cost the city approximately $119 million. Among other things, this has resulted in delays in expected road maintenance and other transportation improvement projects scheduled for 2009 have yet to start.\
Forsale Inmobiliaria [es], citing newspaper El Espectador, underscores that former Mayor Moreno believed such accusations are based on rumors:
Afirmó que tan sólo sabe que hay una investigación abierta y ‘esto hasta ahora está empezando’. En el mismo sentido, aseguró que el viernes en la diligencia en la Fiscalía desvirtuó con documentos, acciones y hechos lo que se ha dicho
Cheers and jeers reached their juncture on social media platforms. On Facebook, for example, there’s a group called “We Support Samuel Moreno Rojas: Our Mayor” [es], and one of its members, Gloria Cecilia Caviedes, says the following:
Sigo creyendo que SAMUEL es inocente es un montaje lo que hicieron. Los bandidos son los NULE para no devolver la plata y quedar como los buenos. elprocurador está con ellos y la fiscalia. Que intereses ahi alli [sic]
On the same network there is a page titled “To Repeal Samuel Moreno’s Administration – Join!” [es]. A post addresses that Moreno’s dual citizenship (he was born in Miami) is a two-edge sword, thus the need to keep him within Colombian borders to face the charges against him:
Como Samuel Moreno nació en Miami y tiene doble nacionalidad es mejor no dejarlo arrimar al aeropuerto.
On Twitter, El Espectador (@elespectador) shares a link that shows images of the place Moreno will be put under custody, located in a somewhat comfortable place inside the Carabineer School in Bogotá:
Aquí dormirá Samuel Moreno en condición de detenido http://bit.ly/rhYHcz
Financial newspaper Portafolio (@Portafolioco) echoes the judge’s decree that led to Moreno’s apprehension:
El juez que dictó la medida dijo que el ex alcalde de #Bogotá es “un peligro para la sociedad”. http://bit.ly/pA31gC#samuelmoreno
Juan Nicolás Riveros (@NicolasRiverosG) predicts that the PDA candidate to the Mayoralty, Gustavo Petro, could very much resemble Samuel Moreno administratively speaking:
si Samuel Moreno fue malo imaginen la alcaldia de @petrogustavo yo no quiero vivir en una ciudad que no quiere progresar, por eso voto @enriquepenalosa
Meanwhile, other users like Luis Heredia (@luishere) defend the PDA candidate by comparing Petro with Moreno:
La diferencia entre Samuel Moreno y @petrogustavo es que el segundo tiene buenas intenciones.
Humor always makes its way on Twitter, and a tweet by @bacteriaopina describes a scenario where Moreno seems to be negotiating something with the Attorney General, in reference to the contracting carousel:
Fiscalia pide carcel para Samuel Moreno y Samuel Moreno pide el 6%
And Cristian Patarroyo’s tweet (@cpatarroyo) also makes use of sarcasm:
Solo espero que Samuel Moreno no arme otro carrusel, con los caballos de la Escuela de Carabineros.
Finally, other Twitter users seem to adopt a more neutral standpoint. Paula Cantor Guzman (@paulacantorg) raises the following questions with their respective hashtags:
Pregunta a los ofendidos: Cuanto exactamente se robó Samuel Moreno? o al menos de que contratos? #samuel#objetividad