Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe and his party have never won a presidential election without the admitted help of drug traffickers.
Uribe’s Democratic Center party is currently in trouble for allegedly receiving narco support to rig the 2018 elections, but this seemed only a matter of time; the former Medellin Cartel associate and his clan have never won a presidential election without the help of narcos.
President Ivan Duque’s political patron isn’t the only one though. Colombia has had only two presidents who weren’t elected with the support of narcos since 1994 when the Cali Cartel helped former President Ernesto Samper win the election.
Former President Andres Pastrana’s 1998 campaign was illegally financed by dredging company Dragacol and former President Juan Manuel Santos’ 2010 campaign was illegally financed by Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht and their Colombian partner, banking conglomerate Grupo Aval.
Pastrana and Santos are from the Bogota elite, though, they don’t need drug money. Uribe, however, is a provincial without the Bogota clans’ pedigree and corporate support. The former Medellin cartel associate has always needed drug money.
2002 elections: terrorism and narco support
Uribe’s 2002 election of the former Medellin Cartel associate received broad support from paramilitary group AUC, multiple former commanders have testified.
Uribe wasn’t the only one, according to late AUC ideologue “Ernesto Baez,” who said last year that some commanders supported the former president’s opponent, Horacio Serpa (Liberal Party).
We supported candidates for governor’s offices until the presidency of the republic, which was Alvaro Uribe for who all of us in Uraba campaigned. Over there, the coalition of Uraba residents, including foreigners, we all voted for Alvaro Uribe and we campaigned for him, we supported him and we got the people out to vote with the ranchers, the businessmen, paramilitaries, the security forces, policemen, everybody. So, that was the beginning of what was called “the political project.”
Former AUC commander Freddy Rendon
Rendon may have been a designated terrorist, but he was not a narco, unlike other AUC commanders.
Former AUC commander Ramon Isaza, for example, has been drug trafficking since the early 1990s while maintaining ties with local politician Fabio Valencia, who was named Interior and Justice Minister by Uribe.
“Jorge 40,” who was sentenced to 16 years in a US prison for drug trafficking, went as far as rigging the ballot sheets in the provinces of of Cesar, Magdalena, La Guajira and Bolivar with the help of the National Registrar’s Office, which was led by the father of President Ivan Duque at the time, according to former intelligence chief Rafael Garcia who said he took part in the operation.
This fraud allegedly prevented a second round against Serpa. Despite the fraud allegations, Duque’s father never opened an investigation.
The political chief of extradited drug trafficker Hernan Giraldo, Jose Gelves, told the court he was ordered to contribute 130 million pesos to Uribe’s presidential campaign.
A man with the same name as the extradited right-hand man of drug trafficker Marquitos Figueroa was Uribe’s driver while he was campaigning in Barranquilla.
Extradited drug trafficker Miguel Angel Mejia said “we got Uribe into office or we would’ve had a [Hugo] Chavez in Colombia.
Last but not least, extradited AUC commander Salvatore Mancuso, who was also sentenced to 16 years for drug trafficking, told the court that he and Medellin crime lord “Don Berna” supported Uribe’s 2002 campaign.
Berna confirmed this in 2008.
2006 elections: the consolidation
Had former Interior Minister Sabas Pretelt and Health Minister Diego Palacios not bribed House Representatives Yidis Mediina and Teodolindo Avendaño, Uribe wouldn’t have been able to take part in the 2006 elections.
But thanks to this bribery, Congress — of which at least 35% were AUC representatives — in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment that allowed Uribe to run for a second time in the 2006 elections.
The idea of the ‘Uribistas” was that “we want to rule for 20 or 30 years, like La Falange did in Spain with [dictator Francisco] Franco,” journalist Dario Arizmendi said he was told by Senator Jose Obdulio Gaviria, a cousin of late drug lord Pablo Escobar.
Because Jorge 40, the last of the AUC commanders, demobilized days before the congressional elections in March 2006, support for Uribe’s reelection had to come from the clans who had been helped into power by the narcos like the Cotes Clan and the Gnecco Clan.
This indirect support was considerable, according to current Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez, who revealed in 2007 that 34 of the 102 senators elected in 2006 were investigated for their ties to the AUC as well as 25 of the 168 House Representatives.
Unlike the AUC commanders, the paramilitary associates who helped Uribe win the 2006 elections honored a kind of “omerta” and preferred to stay in prison than talk, Lopez noticed.
For members or collaborators of paramilitarism who had not committed crimes against humanity, the Justice and Peace Law offered amnesty, that is, freedom and forgiveness. All they had to do was turn themselves in voluntarily and confess. But no parapolitician voluntarily surrendered, confessed or collaborated with the justice system.
Former political analyst and Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez
Uribe two occasions tried to retroactively change the deal closed with the AUC that would allow his allies, including his cousin Mario, to leave or stay out of prison, but “due to the media pressure and the fear that the approval of the free trade agreement with the United States would be endangered, the government retracted,” according to Lopez.
The former president then turned jailed former drug trafficker “El Tuso,” Don Berna and paramilitary fighter “Tasmania” to discredit the Supreme Court, didn’t just fail, they got Uribe in even more narco trouble.
The investigation of the conspiracy revealed that Medellin prosecutor chief Jose Guillermo Valencia had ties to drug trafficker “Don Mario” just like his brother Fabio, the associate of Isaza, who Uribe had named Interior and Justice Minister.
Politicians are politicians, they’re filth.
Convicted drug trafficker Ramon Isaza and former ally of Democratic Center director Fabio Valencia
Uribe’s press secretary and judicial secretary, who met with Berna’s intermediary “Job” were imprisoned.
Berna’s intermediary was assassinated shortly after Uribe’s narco conspiracy became public. Tasmania survived an assassination attempt weeks after he was released from prison in 2018. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
Uribe and Cossio founded the Democratic Center party that endorsed the election of Duque in 2016.