Last week, journalist Daniel Coronell broke a story regarding the business and investing holdings of President Uribe’s two sons, Tomás and Jerónimo. In the story, Coronell offered proof that the president’s sons had been unfairly privileged by their status when conducting their business dealings. The accusations may hurt the president in a way no political issue can, and they may raise doubts within the first family about the effects that a third term in power may have on their personal lives.
Coronell, who publishes for weekly political magazine Semana, argued that Tomás and Jerónimo have significantly increased their income, and continue to do so, through businesses in which they receive privileged treatment and support from individuals that are employed directly under their father.
The accusations have led to an outburst of criticism from governmental officials that dispute their validity. The fact that the defense of the president’s sons comes from many of the same officials that are accused of privileging both of them in the first place, makes that defense hardly persuasive.
The rumblings that Tomás and Jerónimo Uribe, both of whom are entrepreneurs, have augmented their financial capital substantially mostly thanks to their status as members of the nation’s first family, have echoed for years. Yet, no previous accusations have seemed as compelling as the latest.
The main problem when discussing this issue is that, in a country in which the president himself, rather than simply the political agenda he supports, is so powerful, presuming that Uribe’s sons have not been benefited by their association with Colombia’s most popular leader in modern history is hard to believe, even if that has never been their intention.
The spotlight on President Uribe’s sons comes at a critical time in the discussion about the possibility of Uribe serving a third term in office. Nearly four years ago, when the first reelection was being debated, there were rumors that the first lady was initially opposed to the idea of her husband serving for another term and having her sons be subjects of intense scrutiny.
With the nation once again focusing on the re-election debate, the fact that Tomás and Jerónimo are at the center of media scrutiny must not please either the president or the first lady.
Just days after President Uribe told Jimmy Carter that he was trying to “convice his soul” about not running for another term, will the challenges of Tom and Jerry finally tip the balance? It seems that if there’s ever been anything that could convince the president of ceding power, this is that very thing.
Author Felipe Estefan is Colombian and studies media and international relations in New York