March 25, 2002
Alvaro Uribe's Newsweek Interview
(above) and Narco
News Reports Explode in Colombia
Narco News '02
Facts Reported by Narco
News & Newsweek
Explode in Colombian Presidential Debate
Who Reported Uribe's
Narco-History Threatened with Assassination
Now in Exile in the United States
"You have come here
to smear my political career"
By Al Giordano
Part II of a Narco News Investigative
Part I of this series? Click Here
March 19th, the day that Narco News
and the March 25th issue of Newsweek published stories
reporting the narco-history of Colombian presidential candidate
Alvaro Uribe (See Narco-Candidate
in Colombia, March 19, 2002 and "I
Have Been Honorable," the Newsweek interview
with Uribe, March 25, 2002), a presidential debate was held in
Bogotá with the five candidates and a panel of journalists.
reported information verbatim from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
documents that the DEA had seized 50,000 kilos of potassium permanganate
- a necessary chemical in the production of cocaine - in 1997
and 1998 destined for a company owned by Uribe's campaign manager
Pedro Juan Moreno Villa.
Mr. Moreno's unreported shipments of what
the DEA calls a List II Controlled Substance constituted a volume
sufficient to make half-a-million kilos of cocaine hydrochloride,
with a street value of $15 billion US dollars. Because potassium
permanganate is not produced in South America, where the coca
leaf grows on trees, whomever controls the chemical's market
in Colombia thus controls the cocaine trade. DEA chief Donnie
Marshall noted in an August 3, 2001 DEA document that Mr. Moreno's
company, GMP Chemical Products, was the single largest importer
of the chemical from 1994 to 1998, roughly the same years that
Uribe was governor of the state of Antioquia and Moreno was his
chief of staff.
That official document exploded like a
bomb in Colombia this week.
Rafael Santos, the representative of the
daily El Tiempo on the debate panel, asked Uribe this
"Doctor Uribe, at
the end of your interview with the prestigious magazine Newsweek
you said there was a campaign of disinformation against you.
Was the irritability you showed with the magazine reporter a
gimmick to sidestep the debate about your very controversial
positions such as your defense of the CONVIVIR (paramilitary
squads), your participation in the homage to General Fernando
Millán, your friendship with César Villegas or
your 'case closed' defense of someone close to you like Pedro Juan Moreno? Shouldn't the country have a
president with the character of one who has the lucid serenity
to clear the air over any doubts about his past?"
"I have always answered
everything the people have asked me through the media, with the
microphones turned on and available to public scrutiny.
"The interview by
the Newsweek editor was to offend me, to judge me. There
came a moment in which I told him: Look, Sir, I cannot answer
"I have answered
on all the issues including what you have asked me for many years.
The Attorney General and Comptroller of the Nation have examined
some of them. They have always absolved me."
Reporter Juan Gossaín, a debate
panelist, then asked Uribe:
"The columnist María
Isabel Rueda says that you have a bad image abroad, a black legend,
and she counsels you to travel and confront it. Are you disposed
to do that?"
"I have always done
that. I also want to say this night to the national community
that my security program has generated a lot of controversy.
They have used all the elements of dirty warfare to confront
it. My security policy for the Colombian people has no retreat.
To the international community, I want to say that this security
policy will be conducted with all firmness, but with transparency.
There will be security for the Colombian people, recuperating
"We have nothing to discuss"
a glimpse of what a narco-candidate
like Alvaro Uribe considers as "transparency," consider
the following verbatim text from an interview by Newsweek correspondent Joseph
Contreras with the embattled presidential
frontrunner, with additional analysis provided by Narco News:
Newsweek: In 1997 and 1998, agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration [DEA] seized 50,000 kilos of a chemical precursor
used in the processing of cocaine. Those chemicals had been allegedly
purchased by a company belonging to Pedro Juan Moreno, who served
as your cabinet chief when you were governor of Antioquia.
I became aware of that only after my term as governor ended.
If the charges are true, he should go to jail. If they are groundless,
the DEA should rectify that error. I believe that an error was
made in his case.
Narco News Publisher's
Note: Moreno, the trafficker
of chemicals that produce cocaine, the man that many Colombians
are calling the future Montesinos of Colombia, remains at the
helm of Uribe's campaign today.
Newsweek: According to a best-selling book about the drug
trade entitled "The Jockeys of Cocaine," you spoke
out on behalf of a low-income housing program in Medellin that
was funded by drug lord Pablo Escobar when you were mayor of
that city in 1982...
I asked the attorney general's office to investigate that matter,
and I was completely cleared of those charges. That housing program
was well underway when I became mayor. I had nothing to do with
Narco News Publisher's
Note: The charge was that Uribe personally presided over
the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Houses that Escobar Built
after he became mayor. Uribe's answer obfuscates in such a manner
as to confirm the original accusation.
Newsweek: Well-informed sources say that a record number
of pilot's licenses and airstrip construction permits were issued
by the civil-aviation authority when you headed that agency in
the 1980s, a period when drug trafficking was on the rise...
Let's not talk further. I see that you have come here to smear
my political career.
Newsweek: Your deputy at the aviation authority was a man
named Cesar Villegas, later sentenced to five years in prison
for his links to the Cali cartel and murdered earlier this month...
I refuse to accept that you foreign correspondents come here
to ask me these kinds of questions and repeat slanders made against
me. All I say is this: as a politician, I have been honorable
and accountable. We have nothing else to discuss.
This same week, the world saw a clear
example of how Uribe and his supporters "discuss" the
facts with domestic journalists in Colombia.
Country After Threats
journalists don't get their questions answered,
but domestic journalists who critique Uribe are not allowed to
live in peace - or live, period.
Last week, Narco News reported
that El Espectador columnist Fernando Garavito was the
first journalist to break the news about Uribe, the candidate
of the narco.
Within days, Garavito was forced to leave
the country as a direct result of threats stemming from his reporting
about Uribe. He is now, according to the news agencies El
Espectador, EFE, AP and the Miami Herald, in exile
in the United States.
The Spanish news agency EFE reported on
Colombian journalist Fernando
Garavito, a columnist for the weekly El Espectador, said Friday
that he had been forced to flee to the United States after receiving
Garavito, whose pen name
is Juan Mosca, has been very critical both of President Andres
Pastrana and of dissident Liberal candidate Alvaro Uribe Velez,
whom the polls show as the favorite to win the May 26 presidential
The columnist decided
to leave Bogota after two unknown individuals claiming to be
members of a non-governmental organization made inquiries at
the University of Sergio Arboleda about his teaching schedule.
Garavito is the latest in a long line
of Colombian journalists forced into exile, a phenomenon that
has caused a serious "brain drain" on Colombian journalism
and thus allows a narco-candidate like Uribe to escape real scrutiny
at home. Uribe's complaints about "foreign journalists"
must be analyzed in the context that he is partly responsible
for the forced exile of Colombia's best domestic journalists
to foreign lands.
Under Narco-State's Watch
Santos Calderón, codirector of the Colombian daily El Tiempo, told a gathering of journalists
in Bogotá last week that, "In almost every case of
a dead colleague, there is the stamp of impunity," meaning
that the assassins know full well that the Colombian government,
which benefits from their dirty work, will do nothing to apprehend
the journo-killers. He said that in 31 cases of journalists assassinated
in Colombia "not a single intellectual author of the crime
has been captured."
According to El Tiempo's coverage
of last week's meeting of the World Association of Newspapers
in the Colombian capital, "María Teresa Ronderos,
of the Foundation for Freedom of the Press, recalled that twenty
reporters have had to leave the country in the past year. Fidel
Cano, director of El Espectador referred to the case of columnist
Fernando Garavito, who had leave the country due to threats against
him, and said, 'In Colombia, it is impossible to stop the bullets
when free ideas are discussed.'"
the daily El Espectador, where
his column appears, Fernando Garavito spoke on Saturday from
exile. His newspaper described him as "an ironclad critic
of presidential candidate Alvaro Uribe" who "left the
country after being threatened with death by unknown persons."
"In this country the dark forces
that don't want peace persist, but from exile I will continue
writing my column for El Espectador because it is a commitment
I have to the country," Garavito declared from the United
"With 40 journalists killed in the
past 10 years, another 50 kidnapped in the past three years,
and nearly thirty forced into exile, Colombia holds the record
of violence in all categories," according to Reporters Without
Borders' 2001 annual report.
Unable to brand the Colombian born Garavito
as a "foreign journalist," Uribe instead called Garavito
to a meeting last week and made a big show of calling for the
Colombian government to protect his journalistic critic, when,
as stated above by Enrique Santos Calderón, the government
has already proven itself useless in the protection of journalists'
lives. Uribe's cynical call was akin to asking the proverbial
fox to protect the livestock.
After meeting with Uribe, the columnist
Fernando Garavito thought it wiser to leave his country.
Garavito thus joins the ranks of authentic
journalist Alfredo Molano, another critic of the right-wing paramilitary
death squads forced to leave his homeland. Molano was interviewed
in Barcelona, in July 2000 by Narco News about The Hidden Agendas Behind Plan Colombia.
informs the United States government, Secretary of State Colin
Powell, and Ambassador Anne Patterson in Colombia that we hold
them personally responsible for the safety of journalist Fernando
Garavito and other Uribe critics both within, and outside, of
U.S. borders. Due to the economic weight of Plan Colombia's billions
and an intense intelligence apparatus, U.S. officials have absolute
control over the Colombian government, its paramilitary organizations,
and the Uribe campaign that Washington continues to support.
This is not merely a rhetorical call:
The U.S. Departments of State, Justice and Defense each subscribe,
openly, to The Narco News Bulletin's free
mailing list. We allow them to subscribe gratis just like
any other citizen precisely for moments of moral crisis like
this one, in which they must be held accountable for the consequences
of their actions or inactions.
Lets His Fist
Do the Talking
Newsweek's Contreras reported,
in an article
accompanying the Uribe interview, "there is a whiff
of the arrogant about Uribe that surfaces from time to time.
In his book about the Colombian drug trade, 'Whitewash,'
British journalist Simon Strong recounts a 1994 interview with
the then senator that turned sour when the reporter asked a question
about one of Uribe's political proteges who had once enjoyed
the backing of the late drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. According
to Strong, the senator stormed out of the Bogota restaurant where
the meeting was taking place. When Strong later emerged, the
journalist encountered a belligerent Uribe waiting for him outside,
surrounded by bodyguards as he waved his fist in front of Strong's
nose and challenged him to resume the interview (in his interview
with NEWSWEEK, Uribe said
he has never 'intimidated' or 'threatened' any journalist).
"The thin-skinned politician apparently
hasn't mellowed with time," reports Newsweek. "Uribe
personally phoned the Bogota correspondent, Gonzalo Guillen,
of Miami's Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Herald,
two weeks ago to complain about his investigation of Uribe's
past ties to the notorious Ochoa clan. The Ochoas were major
players in Escobar's Medellin cartel during its heyday, and Uribe
has acknowledged his father's long friendship with the recently
deceased patriarch Fabio Ochoa, but Uribe maintains he parted
ways with Fabio's sons many years ago. Nevertheless, Uribe didn't
appreciate Guillen's inquiries and made his displeasure known
by pointedly asking whether the journalist lived in Bogota or
We urge readers and colleagues in journalism
to pay close attention to the two step process of avoiding press
scrutiny inherent in Uribe's strategy: First exile the best reporters
from Colombia, then claim that only reporters still inside the
nation's borders can have their questions answered.
Al Giordano, journalist, reports on the drug war from
See Part I of
Next: Part III
in the Series...
VP Candidate Francisco Santos & the
of "Revolving Door Journalism"
more Narco News, click
Fourth Estate Confronts The Narco-State