Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos has “purged” staff from his re-election campaign following the resignation of his campaign manager after allegations that he received millions of dollars from drug traffickers to negotiate their surrender, Caracol Radio reported.
|Colombia’s 2014 elections|
Santos decided to dismiss all employees associated with his former campaign manager, J.J. Rendon, who resigned on Monday after newspaper El Espectador uncovered a document that stated the former aid had received $12 million from Colombian drug lords to mediate their surrender with the government.
A new team has been put into place to handle the marketing and publicity aspects of the campaign, in the few weeks left before the presidential elections on May 25, Caracol Radio reported.
The decision to dismiss certain members of the campaign staff was taken to prevent further attacks from political opponents, who have been quick to criticize the allegations against Rendon.
“We met and analyzed what happened, what we had to do, and we decided to accept the resignation of JJ [Rendon] and all the people who he brought to the campaign. We are bringing in new people, a new team and what is clear is that the campaign will not be left without leadership,” said Hernan Penagos, a member of the campaign’s political committee.
The announcement comes on the same day that Senator-elect and former president, Alvaro Uribe, announced that he has “witnesses” to a payment of $2 million by Rendon to Santos’ financial managers to cover-up costs of the President’s 2010 campaign.
Uribe went on to say that he has witnesses and evidence to support his allegations, but will only reveal them if and when judicial authorities open an investigation.
Rendon, a Venezuelan-born 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.”
Javier Antonio Calle, an incarcerated Colombian drug lord and the former leader of the notorious “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, and claimed the allegations against him were 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 presidential elections.