Attorney General Margarita Cabello touched upon the investigations into the Pan American Games in an interview with EL TIEMPO: justice reform and the president’s insistence that only a criminal judge impose sanctions on those elected by vote.

(We recommend reading: Lawyer Cabello responds to risk of statute of limitations on disciplinary proceedings)

Lawyer, who should take disciplinary responsibility for what happened at the Pan American Games in Barranquilla?

In carrying out its preventive duty, the Attorney General’s Office verifies the terms of the contract signed with the Panam Sports Organization for the holding of the Pan American games in the city of Barranquilla; Compliance with the commitments obtained in the development of the said contract by the Ministry of Sports; the financial status of the contract in question, i.e. the relevant budgetary support; Registration and authorization for payments by the Ministry of Sports and the agreements reached with Panam Sports for corresponding payments to the Ministry, in particular the expenses corresponding to eight million dollars, which led to the termination of the contract signed for the holding of the Pan American Games in Barranquilla and on Tuesday, January 9, 2024 Withdrawal of the games for which he requested information and made planned visits to the Ministries of Sport, Finance and Public Credit.

And especially regarding the Ministry of Sports, what is there…

It is appropriate to clarify that the Ministry has provided the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit with preliminary information that creates a request for clarification and requirements. By verifying the information collected, it will be determined whether there is behavior that will lead to a disciplinary investigation by this Law Firm.

How many people were involved in the investigations regarding these events?

As stated, evaluation of the information gathered will determine whether there are disciplinary responsibilities.

So, are they considering dismissing the Minister of Sports?

I reiterate that, to date, the Attorney General’s Office has collected the necessary information to determine the alleged disciplinary responsibilities.

(For context, we invite you to read: The path of disharmony that cost us the venue of the 2027 Pan American Games)

The government announced a commission for justice reform, was it invited?

I understand that the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office is not included in the commission established by the Minister of Justice to work on the reform. The decision is respectable, I said that the minister has the authority to decide who to include, just like we, as an institution interested in monitoring the process regarding the Attorney General’s Office, will be very careful and express our opinions.

Commission member Germán Vargas Lleras says we must put an end to the Attorney General’s Office…

I have no answer for him, he is free to express his opinions. As a commission and an institution, we will demonstrate the importance of a control body that is a result of the Constitution. The Attorney General’s Office has been assertive all this time, the citizens have legitimized us, even Mr. Vargas Lleras himself often asks us to take action on matters of his private interests, and we have done so.

Do you think that his and the Government’s intention stems from decisions made towards like-minded politicians?

Obviously we have made decisions that may affect some parties emotionally and the Government itself, but we must understand that this is the function of the controlling body. This is a Law Firm that does not care about political color; In fact, all parties and personalities of the Government were archived without any problems. I hope this is not the reason for the desire to eliminate the Attorney General’s Office.

So what courts of account are there this year regarding these decisions?

There’s so much we’ve been doing, I could tell you about these last few weeks. Our People’s Election Disciplinary Chamber last week alone issued around 90 to 100 decisions against people elected by the people; Some of them are still in office. I imagine 30 percent of those are archives. It would be useful for all these members of the justice reform commission to know this. We have a lot in place in terms of preventive measures, in Cali we had to request the suspension of the tender due to non-compliance with the conditions; Santa Marta aqueduct; Sena tenders; Uspec bracelets. In these last three weeks we have saved the country about two or three billion pesos.

(It will surely interest you: ‘Increasing the cadastral valuation by decree is a financial vision’: Chief Prosecutor)

One of the issues that the reform will address is protection against punishment…

Justice reform is not a new issue and it has not been possible to realize everything desired. When I was the president of the court, we worked with the unions, even Vargas Lleras participated, but no results were achieved. The guardianship issue is important because it is a social issue. What the citizens could not achieve in a long judicial process was achieved through the guardianship case. According to this vision, the act of tutelage should be considered almost like one of those delicate little flowers. Proposed reforms need to be structured very carefully because they may affect this great right of access to justice. The majority of guardianships are rejected, which overburdens the judicial apparatus because they are more dedicated to resolving guardianships than their own conflicts.

You were a minister and a judge, what would you suggest in this justice reform?

Everyone working on reforms aims to make reforms effective, efficient and timely. These three budgets always converge on an allegation of permanent judicial gridlock and then arrive at the utter error that – in my view – more staff should be appointed to relieve the gridlock. My vision is that today the focus should be on empowering technology and virtuality with artificial intelligence. Rather than addressing personnel shortages and retrenching staff from the Attorney General’s Office, reform needs to focus on technological modernity.

Do you think this virtuality is only centralized in Bogota?

Frankly, that’s why I say reform should be on this side. We receive many complaints from our legal representatives who want greater access to the defense of disputed interests. They call or write to the court email and no one answers, no connection. In other words, in the most remote regions, which constitute the majority of the country, the efficiency of virtuality is not as strong as in the major capitals.

(We invite you to read: The Director of Inspection published an announcement in the institution: ‘There is a shortage of 15,000 civil servants’)

The President and the Government insisted that it is the criminal judge, not you, who will take away the rights of those elected by vote. What do you think causes this?

When the Minister of Justice and the Government insist that popularly elected officials can only be sanctioned by a criminal judge through a criminal process and an enforceable sentence, this is to say that the structure of the State that developed the 1990 Constituent Assembly and the political charter is the same. 91 should not be followed or respected. This means that the Constitution should be debated and ignored. Because? Because it determined that those elected by the public or those who are not criminal judges may be subject to sanctions by administrative authorities.

And then?

The point is, they’re basically saying, the day the Impeachment Committee investigates the President, and if it orders impeachment before the Senate, which I hope it doesn’t, it can’t do that because the Commission is not a criminal judge. This implicitly implies that when the Council of State announces that it has lost the impeachment of a congressman, they are saying that he cannot do so because he is not a criminal judge. We are faced with a serious problem when the President says that since he represents the State and its institutions and as a representative he has to implement the constitutional rules, these cannot be respected and we must comply with them. The Inter-American Court is seeking compliance with a personal decision in which it has particular interest because it is its own process. He is in a dilemma that is difficult to solve.

So, do you think targeting the Attorney General’s Office and not the Impeachment Commission is a ruse they want to ignore?

I couldn’t say that because I can’t talk about what he was thinking. I say it clearly: When the President says that only a criminal judge can impose sanctions on a person elected by the people, he is implicitly saying – although he does not intend to – that the Impeachment and Investigation Committee of the House of Representatives cannot and cannot investigate him. The Senate will convict him at some point because they are not criminal judges. Whether he wants it or not, I don’t dare to say it because I don’t have the elements to evaluate it.

Some people said that you took the decisions not against the opposition, but against people close to the Government. Does this answer?

Let them look at the list of all our sanctions to see if this is true, it is not with statements in the Office of the Chief Prosecutor, but with actions and deeds. I invite you to look at how many we file and how many we approve; You’ll notice how many of all colors are approved.


In another matter, the Government removed the authority of the Antioquia Mining Secretariat to handle mining matters…

Undoubtedly, the National Mining Agency has authority in mining matters, it is delegated to the Secretariat of Mines to work on mining matters, and I must say this independently and impartially, the Secretariat of Antioquia is probably the most efficient mining authority. There is such a thing in the country, it is not only the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office who says this. We even sent a proposal to the National Mining Agency stating how important it is to renew that delegation, stating that the President has decided to terminate the delegation regarding the mines for Antioquia, that the Government has regained its constitutional function and that we are putting it at the service of the mining industry. As the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, we believe that it will be important for the country for this delegation to remain in the Antioquia Secretariat.

Do you think the Government should continue to stay at the dialogue table with the ELN?

Dialogues are important, and dialogue is the best way to seek solutions to difficult discussions; Since there are dialogues, this cannot weaken the power of a State. The ELN should give examples, release the abductees without compensation and demand funding, especially if it is at the initial stage when the first thing to do is to demonstrate a good conciliatory spirit. The fact that they say that they finance themselves with the life and dignity of Colombians seems inappropriate and offensive to the ordinary citizen, on the contrary, it seems inappropriate. This situation creates hostility towards the acceptance of dialogue with these groups outside the law. If the ELN talks about dialogue but at the same time breaks agreements and leads to illegal actions, the Army must take action, even if it is in dialogue.

On the other hand, how do you see the President shortlisting only women for attorney general?

I think it is a good decision made by the President, it is an indication that the position of women is respected and the status of the women of the three candidates is valued. This shows that the rule of law is respected, that women’s demand is not to have privileges, but to have equal rights, and this is very good.

Carlos López.
Justice Editorial

On X: @JusticiaET

Source: Exame

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