Bloomberg — A leaked audio of a foul-mouthed tirade by Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s 2022 campaign chief looks set to deepen the crisis engulfing the government.
In the recording published by Semana Magazine on Sunday, Petro’s former ally Armando Benedetti expresses anger at how he felt the president had treated him, and threatens to reveal dirt about how last year’s presidential campaign was funded.
Petro fired Benedetti as Ambassador to Caracas on Friday amid a widening probe into allegations of phone tapping and abuse of power. Semana didn’t say how it obtained the recording, apparently of communications between Benedetti and Petro’s cabinet chief Laura Sarabia, who also stepped down on Friday.
In a tweet on Sunday night in response to the leaked audios, Petro denied having broken campaign finance rules, or having ordered any phone taps or illegal raids. In a separate tweet, Benedetti said the audios had been manipulated.
The case is undermining the Petro government as it battles to pass ambitious bills in congress to overhaul the Colombia’s pension and health system, and its labor market. It also risks hurting Petro’s alliance of leftist parties ahead of regional elections in October.
Hanging by a Thread
The scandal, as well as rapidly falling favorability, and growing difficulties for keeping the coalition together, mean that Petro’s ability to pass reforms is “probably dead”, said Andres Mejia, a political consultant and guest lecturer at the business school of Bogota’s Los Andes University.
“Petro will have to spend lots of his time and energies battling allegations,” Mejia said, in a written reply to questions. “The ability of the government to pursue radical reform is seriously diminished.”
Benedetti’s outburst will cost Petro support within the Green Party and the Liberal Party, his coalition allies, said Jorge Restrepo, an economics professor at Javeriana University in Bogota.
“The coalition was hanging by a thread,” Restrepo said. “This will maybe make that thread break.”
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