The Bogota Post provides a guide to some names you should know in Colombian politics…
Alvaro Uribe Vélez
Recently elected Senator of the Centro Democratico Party and ex-President of Colombia in two successive terms (2002-2006 and 2006-2010).
During Uribe’s presidency (2002-2006) his then Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos formed pro-Uribe party ‘Partido de la U’ (of which Santos is now its President). Uribe, among others, founded in 2013 ‘Centro Democratico’, making large gains in the recent elections for seats in both the Senate and the Camara. Recently, Uribe has become a vocal opponent to Santo´s government and the peace talks.
For many years Uribe and other relatives have been accused of links with paramilitarism (his brother Santiago Uribe is currently under investigation). Uribe has also been accused by Senator Ivan Cepeda, son of assassinated leftist Senator Manuel Cepeda, of forming a branch of the paramilitary group AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), who are responsible for tens of thousands of human rights violations.
Uribe’s relationship with Zuluaga has been widely satirised; it has been inferred that Uribe is the man pulling the strings in Zuluaga’s campaign. As in the Congress elections, Centro Democratico seem to be hoping they can pull in more votes by using Uribe’s image.
Rendón has a long history as a “spin doctor” in political campaigns throughout Latin America. He worked on Santos’ winning 2010 presidential campaign, as well as the Mayoral elections for Enrique Peñalosa and Luis Pérez, in Bogotá and Medellín respectively. He has won 22 of the 23 campaigns he has worked on, describing himself as a “champion of political thought and marketing”.
The Venezuelan spin doctor courted controversy with questionable tactics in Santos’ 2010 campaign, such as creating multiple fake web accounts to promote Santos in various online forums, and by becoming a foreign donor in Santos’ media campaign, something which is forbidden in Colombian law.
Currently embroiled in controversy due to allegations he received 12 million dollars from drug traffickers during the 2010 election campaign to help negotiate their terms of surrender. Uribe alleges he used 2 million dollars of this money to fund the campaign, and Uribe is this week answering to the Fiscalia (Prosecutor General) to provide evidence of these accusations.
Francisco “Pacho” Santos”
Cousin of President Santos and Former Vice-President of Colombia under Uribe´s government (2002-2010). He has been quoted saying: “Here is your soldier to take up battle, President Uribe. I will be and always am your most loyal soldier to return dignity to Colombia.” He is also opposed to the current terms of the peace process.
Led the recent campaign ‘Sí Bogotá, Chao Petro’, supporting the removal of Mayor Petro from office. He has held ambitions to be Mayor of Bogotá himself, which have never come to fruition.
Francisco Santos has the stigma of being ´second choice´, as he was Uribe´s Vice-President. Recently, he stood for election as hopeful in the leadership race of Democratic Center party, where he lost and Oscar Ivan Zuluaga won, which caused Santos to imply the elections may have been rigged.
From 1913 until 2007 the Santos family were the principal shareholders of the El Tiempo media group, which includes the ´City TV´ channel. The family still maintain a lot of influence over Colombian media, notably through the director of the political magazine ‘Semana’, Alejandro Santos Rubino, who is the nephew of President Santos.
Jose Felix Lafaurie
Lafaurie is the President of FEDEGAN (Federation of Cattle Ranchers), representing the country’s large landowners and agri-businessmen. He is an ally of former President Uribe and heavily critical of Santos’ government. He is married to María Fernanda Cabal, who famously tweeted after the death of NobelPrize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez: “I hope Fidel joins him in hell soon enough”.
He disagrees with the current FARC peace process, specifically in terms of land reform. He rejected a recent agrarian deal with the FARC that according to him would include expropriations of private property. In a letter to chief negotiator Dr. Humberto De La Calle, shared on Twitter, he derides this as “the medieval ideological position of the FARC, in which the main factor generating wealth is still the land and, consequently, the communist utopia of equality is achieved by redistribution”
FEDEGAN cattle ranchers have been accused of links to paramilitary violence in Colombia. Lafaurie himself has admitted that FEDEGAN have paid AUC paramilitaries. Questions have also been raised over the payment of corrupt officials by the AUC, who then legitimised stolen territory allowing it to then be legally bought and sold.
Clara Eugenia López Obregón
Clara Eugenia López Obregón is a well known political activist and Senator of the Alianza Verde Party. She is famous for exposing the ‘para-politics’- publishing articles about politicians connections to illegal armed paramilitary groups. Lopez is a Yale University fellow and former Harvard School of Economics student.
She fled the country in September 2013 after receiving regular death threats, but returned in 2014 to campaign for the presidency, even though she stated she is still receiving death threats.
She is known for continuing with her crusade against corruption in Colombian politics. In a recent interview by Colombia Reports, she said that she would “file an international complaint against President Santos. It will say to the world that Colombia is concentrating power, violating democracy, eliminating competitors not in the polling stations but rather with legal tricks”, among other strong statements.
She worked for Enrique Peñalosa when he was Mayor of Bogota, as well as having a regular column in El Tiempo when the Santos family were majority shareholders. She was publicly sacked from the newspaper, when in her weekly column she criticised the newspaper’s coverage of an insurance scandal. She claimed the newspaper was using the scandal to promote the candidacy of Juan Manuel Santos. The newspaper published the piece as her ‘letter of resignation’, and called her allegations “false, malicious and slanderous”.
Ivan Márquez is a FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) member and current negotiator in peace talks. He also participated in the peace negotiations during the 1999-2002 peace process, under Andrés Pastrana’s government.
Márquez left the FARC in the mid-1980´s to join the UP (Patriotic Union) and was elected as a congressman. This came to an end due to the systematic assassination of the party, where thousands of the left-wing members and political figures were murdered. Márquez left his position in the UP and returned to the FARC.
The US State Department has alleged that he personally set the FARC’s cocaine policies for directing and controlling the production, manufacture, and distribution of hundreds of tonnes of cocaine.
As part of the FARC negotiation team, he is one of the people hacked by Andrés Sepúlveda in the recent ‘wire-tapping scandal’. The Fiscalia (Prosecutor General) called the wiretapping “a threat to the peace process”; as such, it is a threat to Santos’ re-election campaign. The Prosecutor General also said that President Santos himself may have been hacked.
By Amy Farrell