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Fathers and sons: Colombia scandal edition

Nicolas Petro, son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro

Nicolas Petro, son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro

REUTERS

The president’s son has been arrested and charged with money laundering! No, not Hunter Biden. It’s 36-year-old Nicolás Petro, son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro.

The charges, unsealed this week, stem from allegations by the younger Petro’s ex-wife, who says she helped him amass millions in bribes while he was serving as a local politician. In one instance, she says, they tricked a drug kingpin into believing he was giving them money to support the elder Petro’s 2022 presidential campaign. Petro Jr denies all the charges, which carry decades-long prison terms.


Will this hurt his dad? Gustavo Petro, a left-wing former guerilla and capital-city mayor who was swept to power last August on a platform of radical social change, has had a rough go of it so far. He has lost key allies and had to reshuffle his government once already. His approval ratings are mired in the low-30s, down by nearly half since he took office, and plans to expand healthcare, workers' protections, and pensions are largely stalled in Congress.

While he has reached a ceasefire with Colombia’s largest remaining guerilla group, cocaine production is soaring and cartels seem to be growing more powerful, not less.To top it all off, a separate scandal involving allegations of wiretapping and drug money continues to swirl around him.

Of his son’s legal troubles, Petro said he will not intervene and that he hopes young Nicolás will “reflect on his mistakes.” Tough love indeed, and that will play well in a country used to elites bailing their kids out of trouble. But as the investigations deepen, keep an eye on whether his son’s mistakes end up reflecting on Petro himself.

See Ian Bremmer’s interview with Gustavo Petro from last fall here.

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