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August 04, 2017

Mayor Who Closed LALExpo Arrested on Bribery, Corruption Charges

CARTAGENA, Colombia—Leading Colombian newspapers are reporting that on Wednesday, August 2, the mayor of Cartagena, Manuel Vincente Duque—who last month ordered the closure of the Latin American Adult Business Expo (more commonly known as the LALExpo), the trade show then in full swing in the coastal city—was arrested on charges of bribery, influence peddling and corruption. Also taken into custody at the same time was Jose Julian Vasquez, a close relative of the mayor. The arrest, which was sparked by a series of accusations regarding irregularities in the election of the district comptroller Nubia Fantalvo, was carried out by members of the Technical Corps of Intelligence of the prosecutor's office, as reported by the newspaper El Universal. In related news, councilman Jorge Useche voluntarily surrendered to the prosecutor's office to face similar charges. Previously, the Attorney General's office had suspended the mayor of Cartagena as a precautionary measure following investigations that began after the collapse of a six-story building in the town of Blas de Lezo that resulted in the deaths of 21 people on March 27. The tragedy and its subsequent investigations revealed irregularities in the licenses procedures and the construction plans and materials used in the project. Manuel Duque was blamed for failing to take measures to prevent the incident, according to El Colombiano newspaper. On May 18, the Attorney General's office determined to suspend the mayor, but while that was in process, the mayor the closure of the adult industry trade show LALExpo, which had begun the previous day and which, for all reports, was operating successfully. Duque claimed that the Expo was a pornographic show that promoted prostitution and sexual tourism, which prompted a wave of reactions against it from the local community, diverting attention from the mayor's activities and enraging public opinion on the business event, which led to peaceful protests at the Julio Cesar Turbay Convention Center where the event was taking place. However, Duque resumed his duties as mayor after a ruling that annulled the action of the Attorney General's office, but his return was not permanent, because on July 24, the Disciplinary Chamber of the Superior Council of the Judiciary upheld the decision of the Public Prosecutor's office, leading to Duque's expulsion from power. Taking Duque's place is Sergio Londoño Zurek, who was appointed by President Juan Manuel Santos.

 
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