Álvaro Uribe, Lord of the Shadows... and of Los Pinos
If Mexican President Calderón Wants to Wage War on Drug Traffickers, Why is He Following the Lead of a Colombian President So Linked to Narco-Corruption?
By Luis Hernández Navarro
March 24, 2008
Colombia’s Virginia Vallejo is a peculiar woman. Born in 1949, blessed with remarkable beauty, she has been a television host, model, actress and reporter. In July of 2006, a DEA airplane took her from her native country to testify in the United States in the trial of the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers. She was also a key witness in the murder of a presidential candidate, and in the Palace of Justice massacre.
Distinguished more for her love life than for her professional qualifications, Virginia was a true diva. Courted by men of power and money, in 1982 she fell deeply in love with another singular celebrity: drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellín cartel. For more than five years, she was his lover.
In the heat of their intimacy, the television host became deeply familiar with her beloved capo’s life and works – and also those of many of his friends, including important politicians. She thus found out about the strong bonds between drugs and the current president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe.
After Pablo Escobar’s death, Vallejo kept quiet for 20 years. Finally, in 2007, she published Amando a Pablo (“Loving Pablo”), a scandalous book – not because of the romantic adventures she relates, but because it presents a dramatic X-ray of the links between drugs and politics in Colombia.
Exiled in Miami, she declared last year to the newspaper El País that “the narco-state Escobar dreamed of in Colombia is more real than ever.” According to her, “drug traffickers prospered in Colombia not because they were geniuses, but because presidents were sold very cheaply.”
Virginia Vallejo claims that Pablo Escobar idolized Álvaro Uribe. When the man who is now president was director of Civil Aviation, he granted dozens of licenses for runways and hundreds of permits for planes and helicopters, on which the drug trade’s infrastructure was built. “Pablo used to say,” she told the Spanish newspaper, “that if it weren’t for that blessed little boy, we would have to swim to Miami to get drugs to the gringos.”
She confessed to the Spanish news agency EFE that Justice Minister Carlos Holguín represents the Cali Cartel’s share in the colombian government, and that presidential advisor José Obdulio Garviria is Pablo Escobar’s cousin.
The diva’s testimony on the Colombian president is consistent with a good deal of research. Several years earlier, in 1987, journalist Fabio Castillo published his book Los jinetes de la cocaína (“The Cocaine Horsemen”). In it, he documented how, as mayor of Medellín in 1982, Uribe set the standard with his low-cost housing program, funded by Pablo Escobar.
In March of 2002, journalist Al Giordano wrote in a report in Narco News titled “Uribe’s Rise from Medellín: Precursor to a Narco-State.” Among other revelations, Giordano displayed a document signed by DEA chief Donnie R. Marshall on August 3, 2001, which announced the capture of several ships loaded with ingredients for cocaine production. “The ships were each destined for Medellín, Colombia, to a company called GMP Productos Quimicos. The 50,000 kilos of the precursor chemical… were enough to make half a million kilos of cocaine hydrochloride, with a street value of $15 billion U.S. dollars.” The company’s owner was Pedro Moreno Villa, “the campaign manager, former chief of staff, and longtime right-hand-man for… Alvaro Uribe Vélez”
In 2004, the magazine Newsweek published a U.S. Defense Department intelligence report that places Álvaro Uribe as number 82 on a list of 104 important people linked to the cocaine trade in Colombia. According to the document, the man who is now president “has worked for the Medellin cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviria.”
Journalists Joseph Contreras and Fernando Garavito published their Biografía no autorizada de Álvaro Uribe Vélez, el señor de las sombras (“Unauthorized Biography of Álvaro Uribe Vélez: The Lord of the Shadows”) in 2002, a detailed investigation of the secret plot that shows the power behind the power of the Colombian president. The investigation narrates, in luxurious detail, the relationships between Uribe and the drug trade. The book’s appearance forced Fernando Garavito to flee his country and go into exile.
Why, despite the bountiful evidence that links the Colombian president to cocaine trafficking, doesn’t the United States do anything against him? Well, because he is the Bush administration’s top and most loyal ally in the region.
Not all of the U.S. political class is on board, though. In April of 2007, Al Gore, today a nobel laureate, refused to participate in an environmental conference in Miami in order not to sit beside Álvaro Uribe, due to the president’s links to paramilitary groups.
The “Lord of the Shadows” is also Felipe Calderón’s best friend in South America. Despite the repeated declarations coming out of Los Pinos (the Mexican White House) about the “war without quarter” on drug trafficking, the Calderón administration takes Colombia’s “democratic security” policy as a model to follow. This is why the Mexican foreign ministry has not registered a single protest over murder of four young Mexicans in Ecuador at the hands of the Colombian army. What an embarrassment.
Originally published in Spanish March 19, 2008 La Jornada
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