Former Colombian Governor Accused of Electoral Fraud

Published: 16 January 2024

Criminal Election FraudThe election of retired military officer Blas Ortiz Rebolledo as governor of Vichada had already been annulled in 2009 for electoral fraud. (Photo: Focal Foto, Flickr, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

A web of corruption between a retired colonel fraudulently elected governor of a region of Colombia with the help of close collaborators in both legal and illegal organizations is shaking the country.

Blas Ortiz Rebolledo, the former governor of the department of Vichada in eastern Colombia along the Venezuelan border, has been charged with electoral fraud and influence peddling, the Attorney General's Office said Saturday.

According to the Prosecutor's Office, Ortiz Rebolledo, elected governor of Vichada for the 2008-2011 period, directed two contracts in 2008 to favor an individual, Fabio Orlando Gutiérrez López, accused of organizing fraudulent schemes that allowed Ortiz Rebolledo to win the elections.

One of the contracts, valued at more than 183 million pesos ( over US$46,000), was to expand the headquarters of the Governor's Office in Puerto Carreño, Vichada. The other, for 236 million pesos (more than US$60,000), was to remodel a public building.

Ortiz Rebolledo also influenced the appointment of Gutiérrez López’s sister as deputy administrative director of the ESE Hospital San Juan de Dios de Puerto Carreño, the authorities reported.

Gutiérrez López, a political insider, is the brother-in-law of a former official of Colombia's National Civil Registry, the institution responsible for collecting and storing the identification information of all citizens, as well as tallying votes. This official was allegedly involved in the electoral fraud scheme allowed Ortíz Rebolledo to win the governorship with only 9 votes more than his opponent.

This is not the only scandal surrounding former governor Ortíz Rebolledo. His involvement with Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero Castillo, known as "Cuchillo", a paramilitary boss and leader of a drug trafficking gang that ran a crime ring in Guaviare, Vichada and Meta, came to light during his term in office. Cuchillo allegedly gave Ortiz Rebolledo money and pressured people to vote for him.

Ortíz Rebolledo’s election as governor of Vichada was annulled in 2009 by the fifth section of the Council of State when this court found evidence of electoral fraud at a polling station in the municipality of Cumaribo.

He now faces additional charges connected to contracts and influence peddling by a public servant.