Venezuelan campaign strategist Juan José Rendón has resigned from managing the campaign of Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, after allegations surfaced that he received up to $12 million from drug lords seeking protection from extradition to the United States.
The Associated Press reports that Rendón is alleged to have worked with some of the nation’s top drug bosses, including Javier Antonio Calle, who is said to have claimed from a U.S. jail that Rendón had received money in exchange for negotiating a more convenient surrender on behalf of the drug lords. Calle is currently being held in New York, and Colombian officials are set to visit him in the United States for further details.
“I have decided to resign voluntarily from my position as chief campaign strategist to Dr. Juan Manuel Santos so as to not become an instrument of enemies of peace who seek to diminish his credibility,” Rendón announced yesterday. He defended himself from any allegations of wrongdoing, stating that “the mediation I realized in the best of faith was not done in any surreptitious or occult way. On the contrary, I acted transparently and in coordination with the authorities.”
In an interview with Caracol Radio, President Santos described the decision to step down as “gallant” and that he believed Rendón’s denial of any wrongdoing. Santos himself is not implicated in the investigation.
Colombia’s chief prosecutor announced that there would also be a government investigation into the claims published by Colombian media. Additionally, the Venezuelan government, which has long been at odds with Santos’ government, announced that it also wants to get involved in the investigation. National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello announced on his nightly program “Hitting with the Mallet” that he was intending to conduct a separate investigation into Rendón. “Everyone knows you received $12 million from drug lords,” Cabello claimed. Rendón has long been a critic of the Maduro regime in his home country.
Colombia stages two rounds in their presidential elections: one with all major candidates on the ballot and the second a run-off election between the top two. The first round of votes is set for May 25, where Santos is expected to pass into the second round, according to the BBC.