The advisor to former President Alvaro Uribe, Jose Obdulio Gaviria, heavily criticized in 2009 current President Juan Manuel Santos and other potential candidates to the presidency during the debate over Uribe’s quest for a third term in office a WikiLeaks cable has shown.
Though Uribe had still not announced his decision over whether to run for a third term by March 20, 2009, the date of the cable, his close allies, particularly Obdulio, were already strongly advocating the case to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.
Obdulio expressed to U.S. officials his considerable doubts over finding a successor to Uribe, characterizing Santos as having “no political judgement or charisma,” and criticizing current Interior and Justice Minister German Vargas Lleras for not even being able “to control his own party,” Cambio Radical.
In an earlier cable from June 17, 2008, Obdulio, this time joined by former Uribe secretary Bernardo Moreno, additionally stressed that Santos was not a “Casa de Nariño insider,” thus seriously harming his credentials as an Uribista and potential option to carry on Uribe’s legacy.
Gaviria instead pointed to then-Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo, among others, as being a stronger candidate, but warned that even these had their weaknesses, ultimately sticking to the mantra that Uribe was the only option to lead the country.
Obdulio’s hesitation to privately anoint Santos as successor is perhaps unsurprising in light of the apparent division between Uribe and Santos that has emerged since the latter came to power last year.
Though not explicitly, the two have appeared to clash on several occassions regarding Santos’ policy choices, with Uribe using veiled remarks via his Twitter account to apparently denounce decisions made by the incumbent. Most recently these have been concerning the move to extradite alleged drug lord Walid Makled to Venezuela instead of the U.S., and Santos’ recent misrepresented claim that there are no longer FARC in Venezuela.
Both men have publicly denied any rift though it is apparent divisions have the potential to, if not already, exist, with former and current allies of Uribe and Santos weighing in to and further polarizing the debate.