Two close allies of Colombian President Gustavo Petro stepped down Friday after prosecutors announced the pair would be called to testify in a probe into alleged illegal wiretapping of a nanny.
Petro’s chief of staff Laura Sarabia and ambassador to Venezuela Armando Benedetti are under scrutiny after Sarabia’s nanny allegedly fell victim to illegal phone tapping following the disappearance of a briefcase containing thousands of dollars at her employer’s house.
To gain access to her calls, a false report was allegedly used to link her to organized crime, Attorney General Francisco Barbosa told a press conference Thursday.
The nanny, Marelbys Meza, also claimed she was subjected to illegal interrogation and a lie detector test in January at a building annexed to the presidential palace in Bogota.
Authorities investigating the claims have searched the building.
Petro on Friday said the pair “are withdrawing” from their posts pending the investigation.
“This government respects human rights, does not illegally intercept the phones” of anyone, the president insisted at a military ceremony.
Barbosa on Thursday condemned what he called “Gestapo” methods allegedly used against Meza, who had in the past also worked for Benedetti.
The attorney general described the allegations as “aberrant from a judicial point of view” and reminiscent of darker days of human rights violations in Colombia.
Colombia has seen several wiretapping scandals, with Petro himself having received compensation for being illegally targeted by a surveillance unit dissolved in 2011.
“Today is a very regrettable day for the rule of law in Colombia,” Barbosa said.
Petro became Colombia’s first-ever leftist president after winning elections in June 2022.
According to an Invamer poll, his popularity has dropped from 50 percent last November to 34 percent in May.