“Álvaro Hitches a Ride with Pablo”: Why Uribe is Mad at Coronell


Virgina Vallejo plugs a tell-all book on her life and times with Escobar

Earlier this year, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution forbade pardoning the crime of forming paramilitary groups, Uribe railed against the court, accusing it of having an “ideological bias.” Previously he had lashed out against prominent Colombian media when they had revealed allegations that Uribe’s former intelligence chief, Jorge Noguera, had collaborated with paramilitaries.HRW

NGOs dream of using the criminal power and the weapons of the traffic in favor of a social revolution they deem to be imminent and inevitable … It is needful for us not to heed these caveats, and to assume the risks and the collateral damage. It would be impossible to be more explicit than the words of Gov. Sergio Cabral about the narcotraffickers: “They are terrorists, they are evildoers.” – Col. Mário Sérgio de Brito Duarte, former commander of BOPE, the “trooper elite” of the Rio military police — unofficial but highly publicized motto: “We kill to create a better world” – and currently in charge of strategic planning for SESEG, Rio de Janeiro.

“You tell lies. You do not have journalistic scruples, you have hate, deceit. You have disgracefully made insinuations against me regarding paramilitarism, go and find me one single charge against me,” [President Uribe] said to journalist Daniel Coronell. –Quoted in EL TIEMPO

While young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats’ manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief. —Zell Miller, GOP Convention speech, 2004

Los de las gafas: “The men with the eyeglasses.”

Writing in Semana on October 6, Daniel Coronell fact-checks a recent book that explores a putative relationship between President Uribe’s family and the late narcotrafficker Pablo Escobar.

The President and the journalist engaged in a hot dispute on the subject on talk radio this week, EL TIEMPO reports. See also

Cada vez que alguien se atreve a remover el pasado del Presidente, él apela a la misma estrategia. Monta en cólera. Llama a la emisora de sus preferencias. Hace señalamientos para criminalizar al que investiga. Explica exactamente lo que nadie le ha preguntado, evade los asuntos de fondo y garantiza un nuevo período de silencio sobre el tema.

Every time that someone dares bring up the past history of the President, he appeals to the same strategy. He resorts to rage and indignation. He calls up the radio broadcasters he prefers. He makes charges in a bid to criminalize those who are investigating him. He offers answers to questions no one has asked him, avoids the real issues, and thus guarantees a period of renewed silence on the subject.

In the NMM-TV Devil’s Dictionary of Postmodern Rhetoric, it’s what we refer to, satirically as “the banana-republican guilty plea” — “filibustering while changing the subject.” It is a form of FUD.

FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence public perception by disseminating negative (and vague) information.

It is not literally prima facie evidence of guilt, of course, but merely a heuristic indicator that wilful noncommunication is being engaged in. As such, it throws up a flag that recommends we reality-test the press release.

La función se repitió esta semana por cuenta del libro de Virginia Vallejo, la estrella de la televisión colombiana cuya carrera se fue a pique por su relación con Pablo Escobar. Ella asegura que el narcotraficante la presentó con el hoy Presidente de Colombia:

We saw a repetition of this [last week] on account of the book by Virginia Vallejo, the star of Colombian television whose career took off because of her relationship to Pablo Escobar. She states that the narcotrafficker once introduced her to the man who is now President of Colombia:

“Después de alguna de sus inauguraciones deportivas, Pablo me presenta al ex alcalde de Medellín, cuya madre es prima del padre de los Ochoa; éste lo llama ‘el Doctor Varito’ y a mí me simpatiza porque pienso que es uno de los contados amigos de Pablo con cara de gente decente y, que yo recuerde, el único con gafas de estudioso”.

“After one of his appearances at a sporting event, Pablo introduces me to the former mayor of Medellín, whose mother is the cousin of the father of the Ochoas; his name is “Doctor Varito” and I find myself liking him because I think that he is one of those friends of Pablo’s who seems like a decent man — the only one, as I recall, who wears the eyeglasses of a studious man.”

Cualquier lector notará que la gravedad de estas afirmaciones está en la presunta relación del doctor Uribe Vélez con los Ochoa y con Escobar, y no en el hecho anecdótico de que él usara o no gafas en esa época. Sin embargo, la explicación del jefe de estado se centró en este punto:

No reader can fail to understand the seriousness of these statements about a supposed relationship between Uribe and the Ochoas and Escobars, and it has nothing to do with the eyeglasses Uribe wore at the time. However, the head of state’s explanation focuses precisely on this [sartorial] detail:

“La primera fórmula de gafas la tuve yo, óigase bien, en enero de 1990. Tenía 37 años y medio. Para que esta señora diga por allá que en el año 83 yo estaba de gafas. Es que detrás de esa señora está Gonzalo Guillén, que ha dedicado una carrera periodística a la infamia y a la mentira”.

“The first prescription for eyeglasses I ever had, note this well, was in January 1990. I was 37 and a half years old. Why does this lady go around saying that I was wearing glasses in 1983? Because behind this woman is Gonzalo Guillén, who has dedicated his journalistic career to slander and lies.”

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Gafas. Source: Wikipedia in the language of “La Macarena” and “Guantanamera.”

La declaración se extendió en explicaciones sobre las gafas y en señalamientos contra el corresponsal del Nuevo Herald -sindicado falsamente por el Presidente de ser el autor no firmante del libro-, pero pasó volando por la relación suya con Pablo Escobar.

His statement goes on to elaborate on issue of the eyeglasses, and makes charges against the Nuevo Herald correspondent — erroneously identified by the President as the author of the book jacket copy of the book — but completely bypasses his relationship with Pablo Escobar.

The Spanish-language sister publication of the Miami Herald published video earlier this year of candidate Uribe attending 2002 meetings at which paramilitary leaders were present. See

El comunicado presidencial asegura que desde la campaña de 2002, Álvaro Uribe había dicho: “No fui amigo de Pablo Escobar, ni cuando estaba de moda”. La verdad es que lo que dijo ese año fue diferente. El candidato Uribe no sólo descartó una amistad con el temido capo, sino también cualquier tipo de relación con él. Lo que afirmó en la revista Newsweek fue: “No tuve relaciones con Escobar, ni cuando se usaba”.

The presidential press release states that since the 2002 campaign, Uribe has said: “I was never a friend of Pablo Escobar, not even when it was fashionable.” The truth is that he said something quite different this year. Candidate Uribe not only rejected the notion that he was friends with Escobar, but denied having any sort of relationship with him. What he told Newsweek magazine was: “I had no relationship with Escobar, not even when it was [customary].”

Dueling translations!

Let me see if I can dig up the Newsweek piece in question.

La versión ha cambiado un poco. En Caracol, el Presidente explicó esta semana: “Él era una figura pública, yo lo vi en ocasiones”. Es decir, el Presidente acepta que “en ocasiones” coincidió en algunos lugares con el jefe del cartel de Medellín.

That story has changed somewhat. On Caracol Radio, the President explained this week: “He was a public figure, I saw him on occasions.” That is to say, the President admits that “on occasions” he was at the same place at the same time as the chief of the Medellín cartel.

Al entrevistador, Darío Arizmendi, no parecen causarle mayor curiosidad esas “ocasiones”. Nunca preguntó cuándo, cómo o por qué.

The interviewer, Darío Arizmendi, seemed rather incurious about these “occasions.” He did not ask Uribe when, how or why.

Virginia Vallejo dice que Escobar trató de ayudar a Uribe Vélez cuando su padre fue asesinado por las Farc y su hermano Santiago quedó gravemente herido: “Como el helicóptero familiar de los Uribe sufre daños, Pablo le presta uno de los suyos para traer el cuerpo desde su hacienda hasta Medellín”.

Virginia Vallejo says that Escobar tried to help Uribe when his father was murdered by the FARC and his brother, Santiago, was seriously wounded: “Because the Uribe family helicopter was damaged, Pablo lent him one of his helicopters to transport the body from their plantation to Medellín.”

El mandatario replicó en Caracol: “Falso de toda falsedad. El cadáver de mi padre lo trajimos por esa carretera de Puerto Berrío a Medellín”.

The president replied, on Caracol: “False as false can be. We transported the body of my father along the Puerto Berrío road to Medellín.”

Lo que dice el presidente Uribe es cierto, pero también lo es que la misma noche del atentado, él trató de llegar a la zona en un helicóptero. Adivinen: ¿quién era el dueño del aparato?

What Uribe says is true, but it is also true that on the evening of the attack, he tried to travel to the area by helicopter. Guess whose helicopter he used?

El diario El Mundo de Medellín da cuenta del asesinato de Alberto Uribe en su edición del miércoles 15 de junio de 1983. Allí, bajo el subtítulo ‘Rescate frustrado’, afirma: “Desde Medellín había salido a las 6:45 un moderno helicóptero de propiedad de Pablo Escobar, al mando de Jaime Sandoval, con el propósito de traer de urgencia a Santiago a esta ciudad para ser internado en una clínica. El permiso especial fue otorgado por la Aerocivil, a petición del ex director de esa dependencia y ex alcalde de Medellín, Álvaro Uribe Vélez… Sin embargo, el helicóptero no pudo aterrizar en Yolombó por el mal tiempo y debió regresar anoche mismo al aeropuerto Olaya Herrera… Uribe Vélez, de regreso en Medellín, en el propio hangar, conoció la magnitud de los lamentables hechos…”.

The El Mundo daily of Medellín reports on the death of Alberto Uribe in its June 15, 1983 edition. There, with the caption “frustrated rescue,” it says: “A modern helicopter belonging to Pablo Escobar left Medellín at 6:45 in an attempt to bring Santiago back to Medellín for hospitalization. The special flight authorization was granted by Aerocivil at the request of former Aerocivil director and former Medellín mayor Álvaro Uribe Vélez. However, the helicopter was unable to land in Yolombó because of bad weather and had to return that same evening to the Olaya Herrera airport … Uribe, on returning to Medellín, still in the hangar, acknowledged the magnitude of the events …”

El Presidente olvidó ese detalle. Tampoco lo recordó Darío Arizmendi, quien por esos días era el director del periódico que publicó la noticia.

The President has forgotten this detail. Nor was it recalled by Arizmendi, who at the time was the editor in chief of the newspaper that published that report.

Coronell fled Colombia in August 2005, citing death threats, to take a visiting professorship at UC Berkeley. His claims to have been threatened were lent credence by FLIP and RSF. He returned to Colombia just this year.

El Espectador interviewed him on those threats in October 2006. He is cited in a Reuters article from [who knows when? the story lacks a timestamp on the page of the news service that picked it up] on an OAS finding that new criminal-paramilitary groups are emerging to take the place of the AUC. He is quoted as saying:

‘Essas novas organizações criminosas são compostas em grande parte por paramilitares que deveriam ter sido desmobilizados. Eles ainda são gerenciados por seus velhos líderes paramilitares, que mantêm o controle na prisão’, disse Daniel Coronell, professor-visitante de Estudos Latino-Americanos na Universidade da Califórnia, em Berkeley. ‘A desmobilização aparentemente não é um sucesso’, disse Coronell, que teve de fugir da Colômbia devido a ameaças sofridas após publicar colunas sobre atividades paramilitares.

https://i0.wp.com/ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/4154T51zPIL._AA240_.jpg
“Loving Pablo: Hating Escobar”

There is a discernible trend in political advertising here in Brazil at the moment, I find, that follows rather precisely in the rhetorical footsteps of the acceptance speech of Roberto Mangabeira Unger as Brazil’s “Minister of the Future,” as local wags opposed to his nomination to a junior cabinet-level planning post tagged him:

Unger said Lula had “inner greatness and a concern for the future.” In Unger’s view, the future speaks louder than memory does.

I will try to document that claim when I get a chance, but I think it’s pretty noticeable. You see official cars from townships governed by certain political parties, for example, all bearing the legend “City of the Future!” Echoing Stefan Zweig’s homage to the country that took him in when he was fleeing the Holocaust, Brazil: Nation of the Future.

It’s visible in subway advertising for state-owned firms and state government programs, in the political programming hour on TV — it is startling to suddenly see Paulo Maluf appearing on every single channel touting Pharaonic projects that CHANGED THE CITYSCAPE OF SÃO PAULO FOREVER! — in real-estate advertising.

“Forget the past! Look to the future!”

Bill Clinton’s campaign theme-song (the campaign was run by Dick Morris until, the story goes, he got caught letting a hooker listen in on his business calls):

“Don’t. Stop. Thinkin’ about tomorrow.”

Brazil, of course, lags Chile and Argentina in striking down its amnesty law and engaging in a truth and reconciliation process.

Peru is about to attempt to try Fujimori on human-rights violations and corruption charges — which looks like it is going to be a wild ride.

An Argentine court, for example, has just sentenced a Catholic priest to life in prison for complicity in murder, torture, disappearances, and other crimes against humanity.

Of course, you know what Santayana famously said. You would think that as an intellectual heir to American Pragmatism that Mangabeira Unger would, too.

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