The recent disclosure of documents suggesting a donation from the influential Colombian teachers’ union, Fecode, to Gustavo Petro’s presidential campaign, raises further questions about the financing of the current Colombian president’s campaign. Opposition voices have already demanded the resignation of the former campaign manager, Ricardo Roa, who also serves as the president of state-owned Ecopetrol
The resignation request gains strength after the revelation of the union meeting official records corresponding to September 2022, which show a donation of 500 million pesos by Fecode to Colombia Humana, the president’s party and the most important group of the ruling coalition Historic Pact. According to the accusations, these funds were destined to support Gustavo Petro’s presidential campaign.
If confirmed, this donation would be illegal since it was not reported to the National Electoral Council, and the law prohibits legal entities from contributing to presidential campaigns. Fecode may have provided the funds to Colombia Humana, which is allowed, but there is an ongoing investigation into whether the party was used as an indirect source of income for the presidential campaign.
The authorization for the transfer of the funds is recorded in a union document, where it is stated that “the Executive Committee of the Federation approved to contribute financially to support the Petro-President 2022-2026 campaign”. The sum was transferred through the representative of the political movement Colombia Humana, Dagoberto Quiroga.
In the document that has been disclosed, the transfer of 500 million pesos is recorded in the name of “Dagoberto Quiroga (…) in his capacity as representative of the Colombia Humana movement”. This donation is dated May 24, 2022, five days before the first round of the presidential elections.
This fact has sparked various reactions. The conservative Centro Democrático party, led by former President Álvaro Uribe, has called for Ricardo Roa’s resignation from his role at Ecopetrol. Juan Espinal, a representative in the Chamber of Deputies for the opposition party, has urged Roa’s departure to avoid compromising the institution’s credibility.
Would exceed funding ceilings
For her part, María Fernanda Cabal, a senator from the same party who frequently engages in social media debates against the government, has stated that these facts, in her view, undermine the accusations of a ‘soft coup’ and government persecution that President Petro had previously made. Cabal has even cited a section of the Constitution to argue for the president’s removal from office:
“(…) the violation of the maximum campaign finance ceilings, duly proven, will be sanctioned with the loss of investiture or the loss of office”, reminds the senator.
The financing of the incumbent’s campaign was just 151 million pesos short of surpassing the spending limit allowed for the first round and only 147 million pesos short of exceeding the limit set for the second round. The inclusion of funds from Fecode would have caused the campaign to exceed the limits authorized by the relevant regulations.
With this latest revelation, concerns about the financing of the presidential campaign continue to grow. This comes in the wake of a scandal six months ago when the president’s son, Nicolas Petro, was arrested on charges of receiving funds from prominent drug traffickers. According to the accusations and the investigation into the former regional deputy and the president’s eldest son, Nicolas Petro is alleged to have funneled a portion of the money into his father’s presidential campaign after misappropriating the rest.