J.J. Rendon has resigned from the reelection campaign of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, following allegations that he received $12 million from drug traffickers to negotiate “favorable” terms for their surrender, local media reported.
The controversial Venezuelan political strategist announced Monday that he was leaving the Santos reelection campaign, stating, “The last thing I want to do is harm the campaign of Dr. Juan Manuel Santos,” newspaper El Heraldo quotes Rendon as saying.
Javier Antonio Calle, an incarcerated Colombian drug lord and the former leader of the “Rastrojos” gang, accused Rendon of accepting $12 million from various drug-traffickers to help negotiate the terms of their surrender.
The drug barons were seeking to prevent their extradition to the United States, and in exchange submitted a proposal in which they offered to disarm and shut down a large portion of the country’s drug trafficking operations.
In a statement regarding the accusations, Rendon said that he was approached by the drug traffickers but that he did not accept any payments. According to Rendon, he conducted himself, “Not in a hidden way…acting transparently and in coordination with the authorities.”
Rendon claimed that the allegations against him are part of a plot to smear the Santos re-election campaign.
Though the claims have not been confirmed, the allegations have caused political uproar in the country a few weeks ahead of the May 25 presidential elections.
According to the newspaper El Espectador, the former drug lord, Javier Antonio Calle, alias “Comba,” told prosecutors that several of the country’s drug traffickers paid Rendon $12 million in 2011 to help negotiate the terms of their surrender, and to submit a proposal on their behalf to the Colombian government.
The proposal allegedly submitted to Rendon outlined a route to shutting down 90% of Colombia’s drug trade, with the surrender of top capos and their henchmen. Among those who participated in the proposal were some of Colombia’s top drug lords, such as Luis Enrique Calle, alias “Comba,” alias “Cuchillo,” Diego Rastrojo, and Loco Barrera.
The 2011 document called ”Agenda for solving the problem of drug trafficking and the violence it generates,” allegedly shows that Rendon officiated as a general strategist for the proposal, which was facilitated by former ELN guerrillas Francisco Galan and Jorge Castañeda. Other sources consulted by El Espectador confirmed that Rendon was actively involved in creating the plan.
Rendon subsequently told El Espectador that there was no exchange of money, that he “acted as a simple messenger”. He insists that he only recently learned the details of the proposal, adding that he will take legal action in response to the allegations.
A former presidential advisor to Santos has also alleged that he was contacted by the head of the country’s second largest guerilla organization, the ELN, who requested to meet with Rendon.
The former advisor, German Chica, stated, “I attended the request, put him in contact, and after that the direction and coordination of the meeting was carried out by Rendon.”
In an interview with the TV program “Hora 20,” President Santos acklowedged Rendon’s resignation, stating, “The important thing is that he resigned and I accepted it.”
“I think it is gallant that he said, ‘I do not want to jeopardize the campaign,’ and therfore decided to resign,” El Heraldo reported the president as saying.
Rendon is controversial figure in Latin American poltiics, and has frequently been referred to as a spin doctor by Colombian media. Rendon previously worked as a campaign strategist for Juan Manuel Santos and was accused of conducting a “dirty war” to discredit his opponents.
In the run up to Colombia’s May 25 presidential elections, the political storm triggered by these events promises not to go away any time soon.
Former President Alvaro Uribe on his Twitter wrote, “President Santos, what is this conspiracy, where is the money of your counselors?”.
JJ Rendon renuncia a la campaña de Santos (El Heraldo)