Three politicians and a banker are preventing that President Ivan Duque maintains control over power in Colombia at their own risk.
Duque owes the banker and the politicians everything; from the money he needed to get elected to the congressional support he needs to pass government-sponsored bills in Congress.
All the president has to do is to make sure he uses his institutional power to serve his bosses’ interests to the best of his ability, take the hits and retire in 2022.
The bosses will deal with the fall-out of supporting the most toxic president in decades, but this has never been a problem for them before.
Luis Carlos Sarmiento
Luis Carlos Sarmiento is Colombia’s richest man, whose financial contributions to the campaigns of all the presidents of this century are slowly making him the eternal shadow president.
Sarmiento’s Grupo Aval, a corporation of banks and construction companies, bankrolled Duque’s campaign, putting the president in an uncomfortable $5 million debt with his financial patron.
Vice-President Marta Lucia Ramirez and Transport Minister Angela Maria Orozco used to work for Sarmiento and have blatantly denied they have a conflict of interests in decisions that would benefit their former boss.
With one of Duque’s best friends, Francisco Barbosa, in charge of the Prosecutor General’s Office, chances are slim that Grupo Aval’s key role in the Odebrecht bribery scandal will lead to criminal charges.
In fact, Sarmiento’s newspaper El Tiempo, which has received a lot of “military intelligence” lately, provided the Defense Ministry’s propaganda consultant in January.
Duque’s former speech writer, Francisco Miranda, became the director of Sarmiento’s economic publication Portafolio last year already.
Dynasty politician German Vargas is arguably the most powerful politician in Colombia with a battery of regional “clans” that helped swing the 2018 elections in Duque’s favor and gave Vargas control over an important chunk of congress.
When Duque did not reward Vargas and his allies after becoming president, the dynasty politician’s Radical Change party simply sunk most of the government’s bills and even got the court to sink the government’s 2018 tax reform.
Having flexed his muscles, Duque was practically forced to negotiate power sharing with Vargas, who gave the president the majority support in Congress after Duque agreed to share power.
While still considered Duque’s puppet master, Uribe’s power is waning as a result of a Supreme Court investigation into his alleged manipulation of witnesses tying him to a death squad.
Furthermore, Duque’s abysmal approval rating and pragmatism is causing unrest within the far-right ruling party whose members call Uribe, not Duque, president.
This increasingly forces the former president to focus his attention on keeping his party together while party bosses holding key position in government keep an eye on Duque.
Until Duque, former President Andres Pastrana was widely considered the worst president in Colombia’s recent history as his misrule almost turned the country into a failed state in the late 1990s.
Pastrana’s alliance with Uribe, however, has returned some of his political clout within his Conservative Party, which has been part of the government since Duque took office in August 2018.
The dynasty politician’s power over Duque was easily underestimated until last week when his objection to the deputy of the newly inaugurated prosecutor general spurred the top judicial official to back off hours before he was inaugurated.