World, Americas

Ex-lawmaker fuels tension between Colombia, Venezuela

Fugitive congresswoman takes aim against political figures in Colombia, accuses Ivan Duque of wanting to murder her

Laura Gamba   | 10.02.2020
Ex-lawmaker fuels tension between Colombia, Venezuela

COLOMBIA, Bogota

Former Colombian Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez accused the fugitive Colombian one-time congresswoman Aida Merlano of being a pathological liar on Monday.

“With script in hand, the escapee Aida Merlano proved she's a professional mythomaniac,” wrote Martinez in a document in which he refers to the accusations that Merlano made from Venezuela against him and Colombian President Ivan Duque.

Merlano, sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Colombian justice system in 2019 for vote buying and other crimes, escaped in October after sliding with a rope from a second-storey dental office in Bogota and fleeing on the back of a motorcycle as passers-by looked on.

The politician was arrested in late January in Maracaibo, capital of the northwestern state of Zulia, Venezuela on the border with Colombia. Her escape was a great embarrassment for the Colombian prison system.

The former congresswoman appeared in a court in Caracas on Jan. 6 where she said that Brazilian multinational Odebrecht gave large sums of money to former President Juan Manuel Santos' campaign and accused Martinez of failing to investigate the Odebrecht´s wrongdoings.

She also declared herself persecuted by President Ivan Duque, whom she accused of wanting to murder her in complicity with a sector of politicians in the country.

Duque responded to these accusations during a visit to Ibague, where he was inaugurating road and sports works on Saturday. "I don't want to kill anyone, I want justice to be done because this woman has a debt with Colombian justice," he said.

The president also referred to Nicolas Maduro's refusal to hand her over to the Colombian authorities.

"The Venezuelan dictatorship should not continue to protect corruption and terrorism, which is what has made them very notorious in the eyes of the world," Duque said.

Merlano, 39, arrived at the courthouse without handcuffs, with her hair and makeup done and elegantly dressed in black pants, white shirt and a red jacket. She spoke for 45 minutes in the courtroom with the presence of national and international media in a more than atypical hearing held on Thursday, Feb. 6, and asked for the protection of Nicolas Maduro's Government because, she said, she believes her life is in danger in Colombia.

"Before I return I want Colombia to know everything," said the former congresswoman in court.

Merlano´s credibility is in serious question and har darts against political figures have been interpreted as an attempt to escape her punishment in the country, allegations that incidentally have escalated the tension between Caracas and Bogota.

On Monday, the Attorney General's Office filed the indictment against Aida Victoria Merlano for her mother Aída Merlano's escape from prison. Aida Victoria is accused of carrying the rope Merlano used to escape before fleeing on motorbike on Oct. 1, 2019.

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