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article imageConvicted offender named Vice-president of Chilean Parliament

By Igor I. Solar     Apr 3, 2013 in Politics
Santiago - The independent MP Pedro Velásquez was elected today April 3rd as Vice-President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Chilean Parliament with the votes of political parties of the center-right. The Honourable MP Velásquez is a convicted fraudster.
When he was mayor of the northern city of Coquimbo, Velásquez was investigated for the purchase of a property destined for construction of social housing at a highly exaggerated price. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that mayor Velásquez was guilty of fraud. The person who sold the plot was also convicted of the crime of fraud. Both sentences were ratified by the Court of Appeals and The Supreme Court.
Apart from being removed from office, Velásquez also received a suspended sentence of 300 days in prison, ordered to pay 165 million pesos (CLP, approx. USD 350,000) in compensation for the economic damage done, and he was disqualified for life to act as mayor in any city in Chile. However, the decision did not preclude Velásquez from other elected office and in 2010 he was voted as Member of Parliament. MP Velásquez could also run for election as a Senator and as President of Chile.
To this date, the Honourable MP Pedro Velásquez has not paid the debt with the municipality of Coquimbo that the judgment of the Supreme Court ordered him to pay. Including interest and penalties, the amount now exceeds CLP 232 million (about USD 490,000). He maintains other debts with the municipality that in total bring the amount to more than CLP 284 million (USD 600,000).
The complaint that resulted in the investigation, trial and conviction of Pedro Velásquez was driven by then Senator, current Minister of Labor Evelyn Matthei. When asked by local media about her opinion regarding Velásquez’ nomination as Vice President of the House, minister Matthei downplayed the issue saying:
"Today he is a member of parliament and is entitled to apply for anything until someone declares otherwise.”
Ms. Matthei also recalled, possibly as a way of extenuating today’s nomination, that the current Vice-president of the Senate (Sen. Alejandro Navarro) tried to get compensation by passing as an occupational accident something that clearly was not, and that the former president of the Senate (Sen. Guido Girardi) was involved in a corruption scandal in 2005 when he submitted an election expenses report including bogus invoices from fake companies, and for using public funds to send mail containing his own electoral propaganda.
A few months ago (November 2012), the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) in partnership with local organizations, conducted an "Audit of Chilean Democracy" which measured the confidence that citizens have in the political institutions. The institutions receiving the lowest evaluation were Political Parties (9%) and Congress (15%).
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