Colombia's human rights boss resigns amid harassment scandal

Colombia's top human rights official resigned Thursday amid a sexual harassment scandal that included nude selfies sent to his secretary.

The leaking of the photos and text messages sent by Ombudsman Jorge Armando Otalara caused an uproar among Colombians unaccustomed to seeing mostly male bosses punished for unwanted sexual advances at work.

Otalara has acknowledged sending his secretary Astrid Cristancho, a former beauty queen, a picture of himself reclining nude in a hammock. He defended himself by saying the private photos and flirty text messages were part of a romantic relationship that lasted more than a year, involving travel and even discussion of having a family.

"If I'm guilty of anything it's having fallen in love with a woman with whom I shared important moments of my life," Otalara told journalists on Monday.

He was defiant while resigning Thursday, attributing what he called a media-hyped scandal to political enemies wanting to damage the institution he represents.

Cristancho, who resigned last year in protest over Otalara's actions, has denied ever having a relationship with her former boss, whom she has called "sick" and in need of help. On Thursday, she filed a complaint with the chief prosecutor's office alleging harassment and urged women in similar situations not to wait as long as she did before taking action.

"I call on all women and men who have been victims of any type of harassment to speak up," Cristancho told journalists while filing the complaint. She was dressed in a T-shirt emblazoned with an anti-harassment slogan that has been trending on Colombian social media: "No Means No."

Pressure for Otalara to resign had been building, with activists saying the allegations alone had undermined his ability to effectively advocate for minorities and victims of Colombia's long-running civil conflict.

Feminists have been urging President Juan Manuel Santos to submit to Congress a majority female slate of candidates to replace Otalara.


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