Nule cousins sentenced for embezzlement, Human Rights Watch criticizes justice reform and Gabriel García Márquez reaches a million copies in China.
On Wednesday the Nule cousins, who embezzled millions in Bogotá’s ’contract carrousel’ – which also involved ex-mayor Samuel Moreno – were condemned to seven and a half years in prison and a fine of $4 million each.
The three cousins, and their partner Mauricio Galofre, directors of the construction conglomerate Nule Group, embezzled public funds given to them by Bogotá’s Urban Development Institute for public works projects.
The judge, who passed sentence after a seven month delay in the legal process against the Nule cousins, referred to the gravity of the situation facing the Colombian capital. The syphoning of funds from the public works projects such as the extension of the Transmilenio has caused a crisis in the city’s transportation system.
The Nules stand accused of four other crimes, to which they have pleaded innocent. For pleading guilty to the charge of embezzlement the sentence of 15 years was reduced to half the time. They could face a further fifteen years in prison. However, a series of obstacles and delays have prevented the Public Prosecutor from presenting a formal accusation.
The cousins will remain in the prison La Picota. The other individuals involved in the scandal, including the ex-mayor Samuel Moreno and his brother the congressman Iván Moreno, also remain in jail.
The Colombian Justice Minister, Juan Carlos Esguerra, defended on Saturday the government´s proposed reform of the justice system against criticisms by the NGO Human Rights Watch.
In an open letter to President Santos, José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for HRW, argued that the reform’s increase of military jurisdiction over cases of abuses by the Colombian security forces could lead to impunity in human rights cases.
The reform presupposes that all actions committed during military operations relate to military service, and thus, according to Vivanco, ‘would result in cases of human rights violations by security forces being handled by the military justice system,’ reversing ‘recent progress Colombia has made in providing accountability for military abuses.’
Vivanco referred to the human rights abuses committed by the Colombian military against civilians in the ‘false positives’ scandal.
Esguerra, however, defended the reform, stating that Colombia had no qualms about cases being referred to the International Criminal Court and that the reform would not amplify ‘the reach of military jurisdiction over the so-called false positives’ nor in cases of human rights abuses against civilians by members of the armed forces.
The reform, currently being studied in Congress where it is likely to be approved, has been condemned by the Colombian Supreme Court and other high courts as attacking the democratic state. President Santos this week called on the high courts to ‘sit down’ and discuss the proposed reform, asking its critics not to ‘demonize‘ the project.
Six months after it was published in China, Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude has sold a million copies.
On Thursday Chinese publishers, translators and scholars of the Colombian author came together to celebrate the success of the Chinese version of the 1967 classic, alongside the presentation in Mandarin of a collection of García Márquez’s writings.
The Mandarin version of the text has topped sales lists, becoming the first of García Márquez’s books to be translated legally in China. One Hundred Years of Solitude was published in May by Thinkingdom Media Group after Chinese publishers spent 44 years trying to secure the rights to the book; pirate versions have however circulated in the country.
On the back of the success of García Márquez’s masterpiece, in 2012 translations of Love in the time of Cholera and The General in his Labyrinth will be published in Mandarin.