Luis Pacheco, the Organized Crime Prosecutor in Uruguay, requested the prosecution of ex-Vice President Raúl Sendic on March 19. Sendic resigned in September 2017 following accusations of embezzlement and abuse of function in his tenure as the head of the Uruguayan state oil company ANCAP.
The embezzlement charge refers to alleged use of company credit cards for personal spending, while the abuse of function charge centers on business irregularities regarding subcontractors who had their debts cancelled. Pacheco stated that the abuse of function charge goes beyond Sendic and includes other high-ranking employees of ANCAP during the time in question.
The defense argued in court that the abuse of function charge is unconstitutional, as it is vague and allows the prosecution of officials who simply made bad business decisions. President Tabaré Vázquez stated that this clause of the penal code needs adjustment. Nevertheless, the opposition National Party supports the charge against Sendic.
Sendic, who maintains his innocence despite his resignation, ascended to the vice presidency under President Vázquez in 2015. Part of the ruling left-wing Frente Amplio (FA) coalition, Sendic was mentored by former-President José Mujica and prior to the scandal was seen as likely to run for the presidency in 2019.
Sendic was Uruguay’s first vice president to ever resign from the position. Senator Lucía Topolansky, who is married to former-President Mujica and heads the largest member of the FA coalition, filled his post as vice president. Both Topolansky and Mujica support Sendic’s claims of innocence, although an FA inquiry determined that Sendic did commit the actions under the embezzlement charge.
Despite Sendic’s claims that there is no evidence against him and that the accusations amount to a political lynching by the media, the case will proceed and ultimately determine whether or not the former-vice president is guilty.