Elections 2022: The visit of Petro’s brother to prisoners for corruption entangles the Colombian campaign | International

Gustavo Petro, presidential candidate in Colombia, on April 5 in Bogotá.
Gustavo Petro, presidential candidate in Colombia, on April 5 in Bogotá.RAUL ARBOLEDA (AFP)

Gustavo Petro has often theorized with the idea of ​​a general pardon in Colombia, a kind of amnesty in a country that has lived through small wars for decades that overlap each other. When expounding this theory, which he does not specify how it could be put into practice, he cites Jacques Derrida, an elegant and attractive postmodern philosopher who achieved great notoriety in his lifetime for his concept of deconstruction, a way of dismantling ideas and institutions from scratch. its interior. Derrida was respected by the intelligentsia of his time, imitated by an entire generation, and became as popular as Slavoj Zizek is now. Perhaps that is why he was also caricatured, and something similar has happened to Petro these days when invoking his name. The left-wing candidate for the presidency has gotten so involved in explaining himself that his opponents have taken the opportunity to spread the idea that Petro wants to open the prisons to free everyone.

The sequence of events in which Derrida has embarrassed Petro has an inexplicable point. Last week, Juan Fernando, a brother two years younger than Gustavo, who is 61, visited La Picota prison in Bogotá as a member of a commission. There he met a series of prisoners, including Iván Moreno, a politician convicted of corruption. He was part of a mafia business known as the hiring carousel, millionaire commissions to twist public works contracts. Petro himself denounced members of the carousel, as years before he had persecuted politicians who were related to paramilitarism as a senator. In fact, Petro belonged to the same party as Iván Moreno, and this was one of the reasons why he led a split.

The fact is that Moreno, according to Juan Fernando himself, gave him a letter to send to his brother, immersed in the electoral campaign ahead of the first round of elections. When all this became known, speculations skyrocketed. The right wing interpreted that the candidate, today’s favorite in the polls, was looking for some kind of political favor. Fico Gutiérrez, his main rival, recorded a harsh video in which he accused him of seeking corrupt allies to try to win at the polls. It is not clear what kind of power someone like Moreno has to influence an electoral process, but the suspicion remained there. Criticism began to rain down on him from many quarters. Petro replied citing social forgiveness, and it was such an ambiguous response that it generated even more doubts.

Whoever does not give explanations on time has to give them twice, and this has happened to Petro. Instead of being clear about what happened in prison, he let Juan Fernando speak. The brother appeared in several media outlets in a blue gauze gown, lying in a hospital bed. “I was stung by a scorpion,” he said. He circled around, got stuck, it was not clear what he was doing there. While he spoke he had to put the robe on his place so as not to expose his chest. The person holding the mobile that was recording him sometimes covered the camera with his fingers. The audio came and went. The viewer couldn’t be more confused. Nobody understood anything.

Certified failure, Petro, who is on vacation in Sincelejo, his wife’s town, had no choice but to clarify everything on Twitter. She said that he did not send his brother to speak with Iván Moreno, but that it was the prisoners who wanted to speak with Juan Fernando, as a member of the inter-church Justice and Peace commission. Iván Moreno represents the prisoners in terms of human rights and delivered a letter in which he proposed to various institutions a national dialogue on justice reform and a debate on reconciliation and forgiveness. There he connects the matter with Derrida, and apparently nowhere else. He assures Petro that in no case is he asking for an electoral favor from the Morenos in exchange for impunity. “Those who proclaim that social forgiveness is a pact to reduce sentences for the corrupt, which we are brokering in exchange for votes, are simply slandering us and we will go to court to defend ourselves,” he wrote in a tweet.

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The campaign has not advanced an inch in the following days and everything continues to revolve around this issue. This is the first time since this long process that leads politicians to the presidency began in which Petro has created a general climate of opinion against it. That is why he has had to go out and explain himself again this Wednesday, this time through a video. “I reject the clumsy idea of ​​linking the search for social reconciliation to a reduced sentence for the corrupt. Not even in a nightmare does it occur to us to lower the sentence for the corrupt, we want to have them all in jail, ”he explains in the video. He adds that others do have these political operators “as allies and ready to exercise power”, referring to Fico and his relationship with the Char clan, a family from Barranquilla linked to dirty deals and vote buying.

He also denies his brother, whom he says does not belong to his campaign nor does he have any responsibility. Petro was in a guerrilla without becoming a man-at-arms, later he was an activist, later a politician and then a ruler. On his way to the presidency he flirts with being an intellectual as well, like Derrida, although like him he is parodied and misunderstood. For now, philosophy only costs him trouble.

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