Love, corruption and vote buying cloud Alex Char’s campaign in Colombia | International

Alex Char, the former mayor of Barranquilla and former Congresswoman Aída Merlano.
Alex Char, the former mayor of Barranquilla and former Congresswoman Aída Merlano.

With a pact of silence, the Team for Colombia, the right-wing coalition in the presidential elections of the Andean country, intends to avoid the splinters of an explosive corruption complaint that exploded in the face of the pre-candidate Alejandro Char, one of his best-known candidates. Magazine Week published some photographs that revealed an affair between Char, former mayor of Barranquilla, and former congresswoman Aída Merlano, sentenced for electoral corruption to 11 years. Merlano, in an interview with the magazine Changeaccused him of being his accomplice in the massive vote-buying plot, but also in his bizarre jailbreak in 2019.

Char, who does not usually give interviews or attend debates, responded with artillery on social networks. He confirmed the infidelity to his wife, but insisted that he did not support Merlano in the elections. The candidate assured that it was impossible for him to make an alliance with the former congresswoman because he belonged to the Radical Change party and she, to the Conservative party and focused on the affective relationship, which was an open secret in Barranquilla.

“Of course I made a mistake. I had a relationship with her long before that 2018 election period, and I admit it, and I talked about it with my family at the time of her, “he said in a video. Through TikTok he also posted a video of himself jokingly reprimanded by his wife, Katia Nule. She in turn published a statement in which she assured that she knew about the infidelity and it was a fact that she had already left in the past.

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The strategy seemed clear: focus on the scandal as a mess of skirts and not on the former senator’s complaints that include vote buying, hiring, escape, attempted murder and even rape.

Colombian former senator Aida Merlano, in Caracas.
Colombian former senator Aida Merlano, in Caracas. Miraflores Palace

In 2019 Merlano starred in a movie leak during a dental consultation in Bogotá. The woman was transferred from jail to the medical appointment and once there she took the opportunity to hang down a rope from a third-floor window. The Colombians saw through the security cameras how she fell in a spectacular way and got on a motorcycle that was waiting for her. Several months later she was recaptured in Venezuela and from there she delivered a statement to the Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia where she said that the Char house, as the pre-candidate is known, and other politicians from her family, participated in the escape of her.

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“They told me that they were going to help me, that they didn’t want any problems. That the only thing they were looking for was for me to keep quiet and leave while they solved my legal problems in Colombia. They promised 20,000 things and I thought that when they declared me innocent I could come back and nothing would happen. That was what I believed. But I never understood that what they really wanted was to get me out to later kill me,” Merlano said. “The plan was to kill me on a farm in Valledupar and leave me buried in Cesar,” he denounced to Change.

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The Chars are a well-known political family from the Caribbean coast with enormous economic power. They own Olímpica, a network of 350 supermarkets and drugstores, as well as a radio station and Junior, the Barranquilla soccer team. They also have a bench with 11 representatives in Congress and Arturo Char, brother of the former mayor, was the president of the Senate during the last year. The Supreme Court investigation involving Arturo is still open.

Álex, as the 56-year-old presidential candidate is known, is shown as a relaxed politician, who has managed to transform the great Caribbean city and promises to do so now throughout the country. During his mayorship, he maintained very high levels of popularity. However, in addition to Merlano’s complaints, journalistic investigations suggest that behind this renewal of the city there is a network of corruption in contracting.

The reaction of the Team for Colombia, the right-wing coalition, which includes the former mayor of Medellín, Federico Gutiérrez; the former president of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa; to ex-congressman David Barguil and to Ayde Lizarazo, it has been silence. The phrase “No one speaks of Álex”, paraphrasing the song There is no mention of Bruno of the movie Charm, has become the joke to explain silence. He has already said that he does not intend to resign. “Zero resignations, let’s go forward!” he said in a rare interview this weekend with the magazine mouths.

The only one who promises to talk more is Merlano. The former congresswoman, who was offended that her former lover treated her as a “mistake”, assured that she would tell more details and not only about the Char house. “I have secrets from everyone. I need a principle of opportunity because I am going to talk about each politician”, she warned.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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