Ex-Colombian congresswoman says she was bribed

By Gerardo Reyes

McClatchy Newspapers

MIAMI — A former Colombian congresswoman whose vote was key to approving a constitutional reform that cleared the way for President Alvaro Uribe’s reelection bid in 2006 claims she was offered certain benefits for her ballot, in apparent violation of Colombian law.

Yidis Medina said in a previously unseen 2004 video that Uribe, then-Interior Minister Sabas Pretelt and Alberto Velasquez, then secretary general of the presidency, offered her "whatever she wanted" in exchange for her vote favoring the reelection.

According to Medina, 17 other congressional representatives were also approached with similar offers.


The granting of special benefits to congressional representatives in exchange for votes has been standard practice throughout the history of the Colombian Congress.

But a 2003 constitutional amendment backed by Uribe outlawed the practice.

The Colombian presidency said in a news release sent Saturday to El Nuevo Herald that Medina’s claims were "induced" by Daniel Coronell, the journalist who made the video, and that the government never made any offers to influence her vote.

Medina, who at first opposed the reelection proposal, admitted in the interview that she requested several government positions for friends and supporters to change her vote. She said she also accepted an offer by Uribe to appoint one of her close friends to a consular position.

She voted in favor of the proposal in mid-2005, allowing Uribe to run for reelection in May 2006.

The video will air Sunday on Colombia’s nightly news broadcast, Noticias Uno, directed by Coronell.

El Nuevo Herald reviewed parts of the video and had access to the transcript of the conversation. In the video, Medina says that the interview could be made public only if the government failed to deliver on its promises or if her life were at risk.

Coronell said Medina told him recently that the government had not kept its side of the bargain, but asked for some time before airing the video. Coronell decided to air it anyway.


This is the first time a Congress member has openly admitted exchanging favors with a president.

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