The Ecuadorian connection to Colombian political scandal grows; Presidential debate set for August 13; More Cuenca bridge people dislodged by police

Aug 4, 2023 | 0 comments

Three media outlets are claiming that Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s presidential campaign did not report payments to its top campaign managers. Among the managers was the Ecuadorian Vinicio Alvarado, who Petro credited with being the “architect” of his 2022 election victory.

If the allegations are true, they would be a violation of Colombian election law.

Alvarado, who fled Ecuador before his conviction on corruption charges in 2018, also worked in the presidential election campaigns of former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and served in two ministry posts of the Correa government. Currently, he is listed as an “advisor” in the campaign of Citizens Revolution presidential candidate Luisa González.

The new allegations first released by the La Silla Vacía  news site, follow the arrest of Petro’s son, Nicolás Petro, on charges of laundering money from drug traffickers intended for his father’s campaign. According to prosecutors, Petro never delivered the funds to the campaign, using them instead to buy beach property.

Ecuadorian Vinicio Alvarado worked in the campaign of Colombian President Gustavo Petro.

Alvarado is the second Ecuadorian implicated in the Colombian scandal. Last week, Raisa Vulgarín, candidate for Ecuador’s National Assembly, was named by prosecutors for assisting Nicolás Petro launder money. According to a statement by prosecutors, Vulgarín’s cell phone messages indicate she worked with Nicolás Petro’s wife, Daysuris Vásquez, to transfer money through a Colombian bank.

According to news sources, Vulgarín, a member of the Correista Citizens Revolution party, is the girlfriend of Nicolás Petro’s cousin and political advisor, Camilo Burgos.

Presidential debate set for August 13
Ecuador’s eight presidential candidates take the stage Sunday, August 13 for their only debate before the August 20 election. The National Electoral Council has chosen five topics for candidates to discuss: politics, economy, crime, social issues and the environment.

Whether the debate will change many votes is an open question, says journalist and political analyst Fabricio Bentancourt. “In my career of following elections, I have never seen a campaign where the outcome is more uncertain,” he says. “There is a tremendous amount of doubt about the candidates among voters and a great deal of cynicism about what the winner can achieve in the few months he or she will be in office.”

He adds: “Historically, the debates have had very little impact on changing voters’ minds. Maybe this time will be different.”

A major problem that Bentancourt and other journalists see with the debate is its length. “It’s planned for two hours and 40 minutes, which is too long. Only a minority of viewers will watch the entire thing. It’s a shame the CNE did not divide it into two parts but they say the cross death schedule makes that impossible.”

More bridge people dislodged
Cuenca’s Guardia Ciudadana is continuing to clear out camping sites from under bridges on the Rios Tomebamba and Yanuncay. This week, they are issuing warnings to those who have been previously evicted and returned, focusing on the bridges at Unidad Nacional and at Bajo Todo Santos.

“We are also telling these people that they cannot gather in groups near the bridges for the purpose of asking pedestrians for money,” said Guardia Ciudadana commander Damián Roman. “These people are using intimidation in their numbers for the purpose of begging, and this will not be allowed. We are balancing the rights of all residents, including the homeless, but residents should not be pressured when the walk by.”

He said there have been several reports of robberies near bridges on the Rio Tomebamba in recent weeks, two of them at the pedestrian bridge opposite the University of Cuenca. Most of the bridge squatters, he says, are Venezuelans and Colombians.

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