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Sponsors of Uribe’s re-election received US$17 million in subsidies: senator

posted by Adriaan Alsema

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Colombia news - Jorge Enrique Robledo

A group of 45 sponsors who contributed 549 million pesos (US$ 276,000) towards Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s presidential campaigns received 33 billion pesos (US$17 million) in agricultural subsidies in return, opposition Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo told the Senate Tuesday evening.

Robledo was giving the opening speech on the debate that he requested due to the scandal of Agro Ingreso Seguro, the argicultural subsidy that for a large part ended up in the pockets of rich families instead of poor farmers.

According to the Polo Democratico senator, the sponsors were rewarded through agricultural subsidies illegally, as the subsidy was meant to increase equality in Colombia’s agricultural sector and not to pay off political debts.

Robledo argued that 5 percent of the benefitiaries of Agro Ingreso Seguro received 71 percent of the subsidies. Moreover, 10 sponsors who contributed US$ 64,000 towards the recollection of signatures for Uribe’s re-election referendum received US$ 8 million.

The senator claimed that the government deliberately planned to primarily benefit a few wealthy individuals. Robledo asked how three projects that the evaluator, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, had given a non-viable mark appeared in the list of approved projects. One of those projects belonged to a wealthy family that had illegally divided up the land to receive other 5 subsidies.

Robledo called for the resignation of Agriculture Minister Andres Fernandez.

When Robledo finished his speech the audience on the second floor of the Senate applauded effusively and shouted for the resignation of the Agricultural minister. The Senate President suspended the debate arguing disorderly conduct. But several coalition senators criticized the decision to suspend the debate.

The debate will continue Wednesday evening.

The subsidy scandal has haunted the government for weeks. Earlier, media reported that a large part of the subsidies ended up in the pockets of wealthy landowners and that there had been very little control over who was granted subsidies.

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