Ex-congresswoman’s jailbreak causes uproar in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia 

Colombia’s Justice Ministry requested the resignation of two prison directors after a former congresswoman escaped from prison. 

Justice Minister Margarita Cabello Blanco asked Wednesday for the resignation of the National Penitentiary and Prison Institute (INPEC) Director, William Ruiz Garzon, and Diana Munoz, who heads the El Buen Pastor Women’s Prison in Bogota, where Aida Merlano was serving a 15-year sentence.

Munoz authorized Merlano to leave the detention center to attend a dentist appointment Tuesday at a hospital where she escaped.

The purge ordered by the minister also included the Deputy Director of El Buen Paster Prison, Katherine Lozano. The Attorney General’s Office also ordered 3-month suspensions for eight officials working at the women’s prison.

The entire escape of the former congresswoman, who was convicted of corruption and illegally carrying weapons, was recorded by cameras at the clinic.

Video shows Merlano tied a rope to a piece of furniture in the consulting room and escaped through a window, falling three floors below.

Once on the street, she hopped on a home delivery motorcycle waiting for her.

Local radio station Blu Radio released videos showing Merlano at the appointment with a guard and she had time to say goodbye to two women and a man, dressed as a dentist, before her escape.

Prison authorities indicated they did not know her whereabouts.

In September, Colombian Supreme Court sentenced Merlano for illegally carrying weapons and corruption, due to her participation in a network to buy votes for her campaign in elections of March 2018, where she was elected senator.

Merlano had also been a legislator in the House of Representatives of Colombia from 2014-2018.

*Maria Paula Trivino from Colombia and Beyza Binnur Donmez from Ankara contributed to the story.
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