Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Venezuela arrests fugitive politician wanted in Colombia

A former politician in Colombia who was jailed for buying votes and later made a brazen jailbreak was captured Monday in Venezuela after several months on the run.

Aida Merlano made a daring escape during a dental appointment last October. (REUTERS)

Aida Merlano, 43, was arrested in Maracaibo, the Venezuelan city in the northwestern state of Zulia, “after arduous investigations,” Miguel Domínguez, who heads Venezuela’s Special Action Force (FAES), announced on Instagram.

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Fugitive former Senator-elect Aida Merlano (R) (Image: Venezuela’s Special Forces)

The former Colombian senator was serving a 15-year sentence for buying votes in the 2018 parliamentary election, and for possession of an illegal firearm at the time of her escape last October from an orthodontist office in Bogota.

A prison guard had escorted Merlano to the appointment but was given the slip when the doctor suggested the guard wait outside in the waiting room.

Video footage from the Colombian National Penitentiary and Prison Institute shows rope hanging from the building as Merlano climbs down and gets on a waiting motorcycle as she is handed a helmet.

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The escape appeared to be an embarrassment for Colombia’s prison system. Shortly after that General William Ruiz was fired as director of the Colombian National Penitentiary and Prison Institute.

Merlano was arrested in the El Milagro area of Maracaibo, Zulia, Dominguez said. She was found with another undocumented Colombian citizen, who was also arrested. (Miguel Domínguez / Instagram)

Domínguez posted a photo of Merlano following her capture. He Merlano, who entered the country illegally, would be handed over to the Venezuelan prosecutor’s office.

It was unclear whether Merlano would be extradited back to Colombia amid tense relations between the two countries.

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