BOGOTA – Colombia’s president on Wednesday announced a package of measures to combat corruption, including proposed legislation aimed at protecting whistleblowers.
Juan Manuel Santos made his remarks in a speech at the “Corruption in Colombia: The Worst Form of Violence” forum in Bogota.
“Now that we’ve ended the conflict with the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group), we must all wage this other difficult and complex, but equally necessary, battle,” Santos said.
The measures include strengthening an anti-corruption unit within the National Police’s Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol (DIJIN) and providing more tools to entities responsible for overseeing different areas of the economy.
Other measures will include assigning special judges to hear cases involving crimes against public administration and requiring that payments to government contractors be made entirely through the banking system.
Corruption is one of the main obstacles to progress in Colombia, according to Santos, who stressed that violent crimes such as forced displacement, as well as “dozens of massacres, targeted killings and the rape of thousands of women, have been the price of that show of human treachery.”
The president said the interaction between violence and corruption also was seen in the struggle for control of areas that contain mineral wealth or are used to grow coca, the raw material of cocaine.
“Some officials leverage their positions of responsibility to facilitate, by action or omission, illegal mining production or drug trafficking in their territories, thereby strengthening criminal mafias,” Santos said.
Lastly, he referred to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which along with its petrochemical unit Braskem pleaded guilty late last year to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials and political parties in a number of countries – including Colombia – to win business.
As part of a settlement reached with authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland, those companies agreed to pay a combined total penalty of at least $3.5 billion.
Santos reiterated that his administration was committed to learning the full extent of the corruption schemes that Odebrecht operated in Colombia.