New York Times Hit Piece on Uribe Latest Attempt to Influence Colombian Election

The New York Times latest hit piece on Uribe is based on rumors and innuendos, not credible evidence.

new york times uribe hit piece
Photo credit: World Economic Forum on Best Running / CC BY-NC-SA

The New York Times is well-known for its left-wing political bias. Despite often being regarded as the most prominent print journalism outlet in the country, it routinely savages and vilifies right-wing organizations, causes, and candidates, while giving the left-wing a pass.

In a case of extremely curious timing, the New York Times just happened to publish a story, a mere two days before the Colombian presidential elections, linking former president and current senator Alvaro Uribe, with Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel, and other drug traffickers.

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With Uribe’s favored candidate, former fellow senator Ivan Duque, leading in the polls by a healthy margin, the New York Times could not resist the temptation to take a shot at the Duque campaign, while giving a boost to his left-wing rival Gustavo Petro.

With breathless excitement, the New York Times speaks of diplomatic communications involving decades-old allegations of these nefarious ties, but a quick perusal of the article indicates that the claims in question were never verified.

As author Nicholas Casey himself notes, “the diplomats say they did not find hard evidence to back the accusations they received” despite having “spent years collecting them and expressing concerns to American officials and diplomats.”

Strange. In general, hard evidence is viewed as something of a prerequisite for journalism.

Unsavory allegations, of course, abound in the world of politics; in Latin American politics even more so.

Uribe was the dominant political force, at the time, in a region where Pablo Escobar ran his operations. Despite various allegations of ties, connections, meetings, and campaign financing, credible evidence has not been produced to demonstrate that Uribe was personally complicit in drug trafficking or personal ties to drug lords or cartels.

Much of the controversy stems from a meeting, over twenty-five years ago where Alvaro Uribe and two other politicians met with Escobar’s wife. Uribe does not deny the meeting but claims he was promised a meeting with Escobar’s mother, not wife, to discuss the details of a surrender. Uribe was allegedly viewed as a valuable conduit between Escobar and then president Cesar Gaviria. Uribe was, at the time, a key figure in the Partido Liberal, but has since gone on to found two prominent political parties which upended the old political order: Partido de la “U”, followed by his current Centro Democratico party.

Uribe, who rose to national political prominence after stints as a senator, governor of Antioquia, and mayor of Medellin, went on to serve two terms as president, from 2002-2010. He remains the most popular political figure in Colombia today, and in public opinion surveys, is typically viewed favorably by two-thirds of the country.

During his tenure as president, he aggressively pursued both right-wing paramilitary groups, and left-wing guerrilla groups, and collaborated with the United States extensively on combating drug trafficking in the region. A significant number of paramilitaries were killed on his watch, and many belonging to the top leadership were extradited to the United States. Uribe took particularly strong measures to dismantle the AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia) or United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia.

As much as he is adored by many, however, he is reviled by the Colombian left, who charge him of complicity with paramilitary groups and human rights violations. Much like other presidents who had to deal with large-scale insurgencies, such as Alberto Fujimori in Peru and Efrain Rios Montt in Guatemala, he stands accused of excesses.

The New York Times real interest with publishing the contents of the diplomatic cables, it appears, was an attempt to sabotage the candidacy of Alvaro Uribe protege Ivan Duque. Facing off against leftist former Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro, a former leader of the disbanded M-19 guerrilla movement. Duque, however, won handily yesterday’s elections, besting Petro 39% to 25% to set up a second-round vote on June 17.

Over the coming three weeks, look for more attempts by the New York Times and the mainstream international media attempting to link Uribe and Duque and cast aspersions on the Duque campaign. However, their smear campaign is unlikely to be successful.

Polls have consistently shown Duque beating Petro in a hypothetical second-round matchup by a large margin, and roughly half of Colombians tell pollsters they would never even consider voting for Petro for president. Hampered by numerous political and personal controversies, Petro was impeached from office, before being reinstated by the courts. He left office with low approval numbers, and indeed, lost the city to centrist Sergio Fajardo in yesterday’s presidential election.

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