Armando Benedetti has assured that his invective against President Gustavo Petro and the one who until recently was his number two, Laura Sarabia, were the product of rage and drinking. However, his words have generated a political earthquake in Colombia whose dimensions for now are not easy to calculate. He has been intimidated since then and has just asked the Prosecutor's Office to protect him and his family because of the threats he is receiving directly and indirectly "from very powerful people." "The threats are very serious," Benedetti told this newspaper.
The former ambassador to Venezuela was removed from his post for conspiring against Sarabia, Petro's right-hand man. The dismissal did not sit well with him and he gave two interviews in which he insinuated that Petro's campaign, of which he was chief, was inflated by irregular money. He slipped that both he and the president have a problem with cocaine. In some WhatsApp audios that were released he goes even further and goes so far as to say that if he spoke they would all end up in prison. The Prosecutor's Office has taken over the case.
Benedetti had remained silent for 36 hours, since justifying his bluster by the alcohol and rancor he felt at being politically displaced. He and Sarabia, who was then his subordinate, formed the hard core of the left's campaign and were behind all the great adhesions and mobilizations that eventually led Petro to the Presidency. Benedetti planned to be appointed minister or another position close to Petro, but he was sent to Venezuela as ambassador because he was pursued by several judicial cases that could harm the government. Benedetti took it as a banishment. Sarabia, on the other hand, stayed next to Petro, literally in the office next door.
That difference in treatment ate away at the ambassador for months, who almost a year later tried to return to Bogotá to a relevant post. Then, according to him, Petro and Sarabia gaslit him and abandoned him to his fate. It is believed that he was the one who leaked to Semana magazine that Sarabia's nanny had been subjected to polygraph for being suspected of having stolen a briefcase with money from her boss. Benedetti spread suspicion further on Twitter, doubting the provenance of that money and dropping that Sarabia tapped phones. The Prosecutor's Office went to check if that was the case and discovered that the nanny had had the phone tapped during the investigation into the theft. It was the beginning of the end of Sarabia, who is accused of abuse of power, and also of Benedetti, for plotting in the shadows.
She left discreetly, thanking Petro for his support during these months, but he has been raising a blanket of suspicion over the president. His words have provoked the biggest government crisis in these ten months. The opposition has taken the opportunity to call for the removal of the president and a thorough investigation of what happened. The prosecutor, Francisco Barbosa, has opened inquiries and has disproportionately described this as the worst human rights case in Colombia. Barbosa, from his position, makes an evident opposition to the president.
Benedetti says he has evidence of those threats that have led him to ask for protection. The politician was pictured Wednesday wearing a leather jacket, a black cap and a suitcase at a boarding gate at Bogota airport. Some journalists reported that he was leaving because he felt his life was threatened, but he denied it, saying he traveled to Europe for a family matter. In a few days he will be back. On his return, the political imbroglio he has helped create awaits him.
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