Colombian Attorney General Removed, Amid Accusations of Paramilitary Ties

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Colombia’s attorney general, Viviane Morales, was removed from her position by the country’s Council of State after they deemed her 2010 election by the Supreme Court to be void.

The Council voted by 15 to 9 that Morales had failed to obtain the requisite two-thirds majority in her December 2010 election. Since she only gained 14 votes at the time, they argued, she did not have the necessary support of 16 out of the 23 sitting judges.

Morales’ defense are arguing that in light of the fact only 18 of the judges were present for the vote, the two-thirds majority should be lowered to 12.

The deputy attorney general, Wilson Alejandro Martinez, will take over from Morales on a temporary basis while a new attorney general is elected. As a former interim chief prosecutor, Guillermo Mendoza, told the Associated Press, however, that President Juan Manuel Santos could nominate Morales again.

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Aside from the ongoing debate over the legitimacy of Morales’ election, she has been dogged by questions surrounding her re-marriage to former congressman Carlos Alonso Lucio last year.

Alonso, a former member of the demobilized M-19 guerrilla group, is alleged by former Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo to have been an unauthorized “chief adviser” to umbrella paramilitary organization the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), during demobilization negotiations in the 2000s. These accusations prompted Morales’ office to begin an investigation into her own husband late last year.

The extradited former-paramilitary leader Diego Fernando Murillo, alias “Don Berna,” has also stated during testimony that Alonso acted as a mediator for the group between the AUC and rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN).

As a result of her husband’s alleged ties to the AUC, Morales has come under scrutiny for her possible role in the negotiations and whether she too acted as an unofficial adviser. She has vehemently denied the accusations.

In addition to her marriage, Morales’ work, which has involved going after a number of allies to former President Alvaro Uribe alleged to have their own ties to paramilitaries — among them Restrepo who is under investigation for his alleged role in a false FARC demobilization in 2006 — has been regarded by some as being heavily politicized. As news site La Silla Vacia notes, her removal will likely be welcomed by Uribe and will be a relief to Santos who has defended her against the accusations.

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