Weeks before Colombia's presidential elections, the current president's political strategist has resigned on accusations he received $12 million from the country's top drug lords to negotiate a plan for their demobilization, in a case indicating how criminal ties continue to reach the top of the administration.
According to Semana, captured former Rastrojos leaders Javier Antonio Calle Serna, alias "Comba," and Diego Perez Henao, alias "Diego Rastrojo," along with late ERPAC leader "Cuchillo" and captured trafficker Daniel "El Loco" Barrera, allegedly signed the proposal. They then had presidential adviser J.J. Rendon deliver it to President Juan Manuel Santos, who rejected the plan.
In December 2013, Calle Serna testified that Venezuelan national Rendon met with the drug traffickers' lawyers on three occasions during 2010 and 2011. Though Rendon denies receiving any money from the criminal bosses, Semana reported that in June 2011 the political adviser set up a company named Tulum Investments in the US state of Delaware, through which he bought a $4 million penthouse the following month.
Rendon resigned on May 5 to avoid "damaging the [2014 presidential] campaign of Dr. Juan Manuel Santos," reported El Tiempo. Colombia's presidential elections, in which Santos is running for a second term in office, are due to take place on May 25.
InSight Crime Analysis
The controversy surrounding Rendon serves as a reminder of how criminal infiltration of Colombian politics goes to the highest levels. Throughout the current administration, revelations have continued to emerge of links between paramilitary groups -- from which many of the country's current criminal organizations emerged -- and politicians and security officials active during the previous administration of Alvaro Uribe. The former president has himself been accused of such ties on various occasions.
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Rendon's last-ditch attempt to distance himself from Santos' presidential campaign will unlikely save the head of state from yet another electoral scandal, after Colombia's March congressional elections were marred by allegations of criminal ties among victorious candidates, including some from Santos' own party, and Santos was accused of vote buying.
Though Santos has backed the claims of innocence made by Rendon -- who also served as his campaign strategist for the 2010 presidential elections -- the details revealed by Colombian media could be extremely damaging.