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Source: Colombia, Spooky Connections - June 21, 2021

Alvaro Uribe: Colombia's Drug Lord

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Alvaro Uribe was born on July 4, 1953 in Medellín, Colombia. He was the president of Colombia for two terms, from August 7, 2002, to August 7, 2010. Uribe was so popular that he enjoyed 75% public approval upon leaving the presidency and could have won a third term if allowed.

Uribe's wealth is estimated to be $1.1 Billion but it has not been independently verified nor has its origin been identified.

He was born to Laura Vélez Uribe and Alberto Uribe Sierra a businessman, rancher, and horse breeder. Uribe's father Alberto Uribe Sierra was killed by an alleged FARC guerrilla group during a 1983 kidnapping attempt. The FARC denies any involvement in the killing. Uribe later used his father's death to advance his political career.

He has seven sibilings María Isabel Uribe Vélez, María Teresa Uribe Vélez, Jaime Uribe Vélez, Camilo Uribe Uribe, Mario Uribe Escobar, Tomás Uribe, Lina Moreno de Uribe. Uribe married Lina María Moreno Mejía in 1979 and they have two adult children Tomás Uribe, Jerónimo Alberto Uribe Moreno.

Who was the Ochoa Crime Family and what was their relationship to Alvaro Uribe?

Uribe’s father was close friends with Fabio Ochoa Restrepo, the patriarch of the Ochoa family which allied with the Medellin cartel in 1982. Multiple journalists have claimed that Alberto Uribe Sierra was involved in the drug trafficking business with the Ochoa crime family, and they've released unconfirmed photos of Alberto Uribe and José Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha known as "El Mexicano".

Uribe and the Ochoa brothers grew up together according to Alvaro Uribe's own admission. In 1980, Jaime Uribe, Alvaro's brother, had his first child with Medellin cartel associate Dolly Cifuentes. Several declassified U.S. documents dating back to 1993 link Alvaro Uribe to Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel. The Uribe family was close to Pablo Escobar according to declassified US cable links. And Escobar financed Alvaro Uribe's political campaigns. A declassified U.S. DIA report listed Uribe as one of 100 suspected Colombian “narcopols,” calling him a “close personal friend” of Escobar who was “dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels.”

What's the deal with Alvaro Uribe and Medellin Cartel Planes?

Between 1975 and 1976, Pablo Escobar and Carlos Lehder founded the Medellin Cartel and began flying cocaine from Colombia to Florida, USA.

By 1979 they had smuggled enough cocaine to the U.S. to attract attention in Colombia, especially from the then civil aviation chief Fernando Uribe. That year Fernando Uribe declared that he was going to begin an investigation into a growing number of illegal airstrips used by narcos to smuggle cocaine. Soon after Fernando Uribe began to revoke licenses to the Medellin Cartel and other assorted Narcos. Uribe was about to file a detailed report on the Medellin Cartel's use of aircraft to traffic cocaine to the United States, when an assassination squad ordered by Pablo Escobar, shot him dead. 

In January 1980, President Julio Cesar Turbay inexplicably assigned an inexperienced 28-year-old Alvaro Uribe as director of Civil Aeronautics (1980–1982). Upon entering power Alvaro Uribe campaigned for “decentralize airports” and he granted more licenses in 18 months than the agency had done in the previous 40 years. From 1954 to 1981, the state had granted 2,339 licenses, and during the 18 months Uribe was in office, he granted 2,242 licenses. Many of the licenses ended up in the hands of associates of Pablo Escobar, Lehder, and Ochoa, according to senior journalist Ignacio Gomez.

In 1981, Governor Ivan Duque Escobar reportedly called Alvaro Uribe, to warn him about a license granted to Jaime Cardona a known member of the Medellin Cartel. Duque told Uribe that “in case you didn’t know, this is a businessman who is linked to the mafia.” Alvaro Uribe told Ivan Duque Escobar that the drug trafficker Cardona was “a good man.” In 1977, Cardona was caught with 530 kilos of cocaine and was one of Pablo Escobar‘s first money launderers. Despite Cardona’s known ties to Pablo Escobar, Uribe granted him the license to fly a route from Medellin to Turbo, a town on the Caribbean coast. The license was revoked after Duque personally reported the incident to President Julio Cesar Turbay, but Alvaro Uribe remained in his post and continued to grant licenses to other members of the cartel.

 

In 1983, it was revealed that Alvaro Uribe granted two airplane licenses to the sister of the german-Colombian drug lord Carlos Lehder, and five to the brother and three to the cousin of drug lord Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha “El Mexicano”. That same year it was reported that Pablo Escobar lent Alvaro Uribe a helicopter to recover his father's body who was killed during a firefight with alleged FARC guerrillas. According to Escobar’s former hitman Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez known as “Popeye” and Escobar's former lover Virginia Vallejo, Alvaro Uribe also authorized the airstrip on Escobar’s infamous estate Hacienda Napoles. "Popeye" reported that, "when he [Alvaro Uribe] was director of Aerocivil, he authorized the airstrip at Hacienda Napoles. It was paved and perfectly visible from the sky, from a satellite. I suppose the Americans at the time had pictures of it. He authorized the strip knowing it was for Pablo Emilo Escobar."

According to Aerocivil documents, Alvaro Uribe also personally granted Antonio Correa Molina a license for a Hughes 500D helicopter, which was later sold to Luis Carlos Molina Yepes who was a member of the leadership of the Medellin cartel. The same Aerocivil documents showed that Israel Londoño, a brother-in-law of the Ochoas married to Fresia María Ochoa de Londoño, received a license for a Bell 206 helicopter which was later confiscated during a raid on the Medellin Cartel in 1986. 

In 1982, Two months after leaving his post as the director of civil aviation, Uribe was appointed mayor of Medellin by president Turbay’s successor, Belisario Betancur. Belisario Betancur was an oligarch that showed disdain for the poor, one of the intellectual authors of the Santa Barbara massacre and responsible for the Armero tragedy that left 25,000 people dead. In 1985, the Nevado de Ruíz volcano erupted and buried the town of Armero in Tolima killing more than 25,000 people. Italian researchers had warned Betancur of the risks of an impending eruption. Betancur refused to evacuate and said it was too expensive. The Nevado de Ruíz volcano erupted and buried the town of Armero in Tolima killing more than 25,000 people. Betancur and his government were of the opinion that there was no need to evacuate the town and it was also very expensive and the poor are worth nothing. A sentiment that has defined many of Colombia's previous governments including Uribe's and now Ivan Duque's.

A few years later after Uribe left his post Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara ordered the aviation agency to revoke all the Medellin Cartel’s licenses. Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara was assassinated by the Medellin Cartel soon after. Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara was assassinated six weeks after seizing a Uribe family helicopter at “Tranquilandia,” a huge Medellin Cartel cocaine processing facility in March 1984. Allegedly he told investigators that whoever owned the helicopter [before knowing the identity of the owner] was. According to colonel Ramirez, “I asked him [Rodrigo Lara] to explain and he told me: ‘Yes, the owners of the helicopter and the airplanes that were confiscated in Yari’.” The colonel was murdered by cartel assassins in 1986. Declassified documents of the US Department of State say Alvaro Uribe received funding 'for his electoral campaigns to the Senate by the Ochoa Vasquez family and the Medellin cartel.' Pablo Escobar conspired with the Ochoa family to communicate with Alvaro Uribe that he needed to connect with then-President Cesar Gaviria (1990-1994) 'in exchange for the favor' of the funding of his campaign.

In 2005, Alvaro Uribe then-President of Colombia appointed Fernando Sanclemente as director of Aerocivil, who is alleged to have covered up Uribe's drug trafficking links which extended to the Sinaloa Cartel. Coincidently in early 2006 Uribe’s former chief of staff, Pedro Juan Moreno, died after crashing while flying in a Bell 206B helicopter which was confiscated during the 1986 raid on the Medellin Cartel. Fernando Sanclemente declared Pedro Juan Moreno’s death as an accident but was contradicted by Colombian prosecution and Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano also known as Don Berna, who reported that his men sabotaged the helicopter after Uribe ordered Moreno’s assassination. Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano also known as Don Berna, he was third in command of the Alvaro Uribe linked death squad the United Self-Defences of Colombia, Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC, in Spanish. He was also a high-ranking drug lord linked to several cartels including the Medellin and Sinaloa cartels.

In 2007, Fernando Sanclamente denied 1983 press reports that Pablo Escobar has provided Alvaro Uribe a helicopter but that instead the helicopter was provided by Juan Gonzalo Angel. Coincidently the brother of Juan Gonzalo Angel is Luis Guillermo one of 12 former Medellin cartel pilots who received amnesty in 1993 for giving crucial information that helped lead to the assassination of Pablo Escobar.

What is Alvaro Uribe's relationship to the Sinaloa Cartel?

In the trial against Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera commonly known as "El Chapo" it was revealed how Uribe’s in-laws, the Cifuentes-Villa family, worked with the Mexican cartel since the 1990’s to secure drug trafficking routes from Colombia to Mexico and ultimately the United States.

 

While Fernando Sanclamente was director of Aerocivil multiple Sinaloa Cartel air controllers were hired and licenses were extended or granted to Sinaloa Cartel planes. Including to companies tied to the Cinfuentes-Villa crime family who are tied to Alvaro Uribe.

 

In the 1990s Uribe’s older brother Jaime Alberto Uribe Vélez, who was also known as “Arepa” and “El Pecoso” had two children with Dolly Cifuentes Villa known as “La Meno”, a member of the Cifuentes-Villa crime family. Their children were Ana Maria Uribe Cifuentes who was born in 1980 and Daniel Alberto Uribe Cifuentes who was born in 1990. In 1986 Jaime Uribe was arrested and interrogated by the Colombian military after detectives discovered calls had been made from his carphone to Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellín cartel. Dolly's brothers are Francisco Cifuentes one of Escobar’s most trusted pilots, Fernando Cifuentes Villa associated with the Cali Cartel before his death, Jorge Milton Cifuentes Villa, who was arrested in Venezuela in 2012, and a fourth brother Alex Cifuentes who was “El Chapo’s” right-hand man.

In February 2009, Sanclemente’s Aerial Transport chief Ilva Restrepo extended a license of a Cessna T-303 of Nautica de Oriente Condor S.A., a company founded in 1991 by drug lord Francisco Cifuentes. In 2010, after Alvaro Uribe left office Fernando Sanclamente found himself investigated for links to organized crime and replaced as the director of Aerocivil. In 2011, Fernando Sanclamente's replacement Santiago Castro hired Fernando's sister Adriana Sanclamente as the agency’s Aerial Transport chief. In 2011, Dolly Cifuentes Villa was arrested after a request from a US federal court for her ties to the head of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. Alvaro Uribe's niece Ana Maria Uribe Cifuentes was also placed on the US Treasury's list of people identified as acting on behalf of drug trafficking or terrorist organizations for money laundering for the Sinaloa Cartel. Ana Maria Uribe Cifuentes's whereabouts are "unknown". Both women are alleged to belong to the Cifuentes Villa crime family which, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, trafficked at least 30 tonnes of cocaine to the US between 2009 and 2011, and laundered illicit narcotics proceeds across several Latin American countries including Colombia.

In 2012, Colombian police announced they had seized $15 Million in assets from the Sinaloa cartel, owned by the Cifuentes-Villa crime family on behalf of El Chapo. Álvaro Uribe denied any knowledge of his brother's not-so-secret- relationship with Cifuentes-Villa, or the existence of his niece Ana Maria Uribe Cifuentes, despite all the facts and evidence that exists. In late 2011, Sanclamente’s sister granted a license to Condor SA a month after the arrest of Alvaro Uribe’s niece Ana Maria Uribe Cifuentes and Dolly Cifuentes Villa. The Cifuentes-Villa Condor SA airplane was confiscated by inspectors at Medellin’s Olaya Herrera airport in 2014 when an unnamed frontman tried to sell the aircraft. In 2016, the same Cifuentes-Villa airplane reappeared and was confiscated amid “suspicion it would be part of a fleet that is used to transport cocaine shipments to Mexico.”

By 2018, cartel-linked air traffic controllers who had been hired under Fernando Sanclemente were promoted to prominent and powerful positions and operated under Jorge Jimmy Panchalo Calderón, the chief air traffic controller in Cali. The Sinaloa Cartel-linked air traffic controllers coordinated the take-off of cocaine-filled cartel planes against the orders of the Air Force which proceeded to shoot the planes down. Some members of the network had military connections and were responsible for evading air interdiction operations, recruiting pilots, and acquiring planes. 

 

US customs officials tracked cocaine found at a New York airport back to Fernando Sanclemente's family estate near Bogota’s El Dorado airport after investigator Richard Maok Riano Botina alerted US authorities about the Sanclemente family’s protection racket with former Medellin Cartel associates. Maok also revealed testimony by a former airline security chief that claimed that Fernando Sanclemente and Alavaro Uribe had been receiving major bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel's head “El Chapo” to facilitate cocaine transport from El Dorado airport through a company called Air Cargo Lines. Authorities declined to investigate the claim. Fernando Sanclemente's Estate Caretaker was later used as what some claim to be a fall guy and he took a plea bargain and full blame for the cocaine labs found on Sanclemente's land. Anti-narcotics chief Ricardo Enrique Carriazo disapproved of the plea bargain and handed in his resignation. The deal “did not seek to identify the determinants, direct and indirect perpetrators, or the financiers and other actors involved in the illicit activity,” 

How did all this drug trafficking start and what have been the consequences?

Drug trafficking in Colombia stems from the decades of conflict that began in the late 1950s. At least 220,000 people have been killed in the conflict between 1958 and 2013, most of them civilians (177,307 civilians and 40,787 fighters), and more than five million civilians were forced from their homes between 1985 and 2012. The most important international contributors to the Colombian conflict include multinational corporations, the United States, Cuba, and the drug trafficking industry.

 

The conflict was instigated by the United States which encouraged authorities to wage war on peasant leftist militias that aligned with communism and against major US resource corporations. In the 1980s the level of violence increased across Colombia result trafficking that had begun in the 1960s and 70s, when a group of US citizens began to smuggle marijuana. Later, US organized crime began to establish drug trafficking in Colombia in cooperation with local marijuana producers. Cocaine (and other drugs) manufactured in Colombia were historically mostly consumed in the US as well as Europe. Organized crime in Colombia grew powerful in the 1970s and 80s with the introduction of massive drug trafficking to the United States from Colombia.

 

The United States then declared a 'War On Drugs' expanding the Colombian drug conflict across multiple borders and nations. Especially in Mexico where drug cartels distributing Colombian narcotics have had a violent war among each other and authorities. Violence in Mexico has continually risen since the start of the Mexican Drug War in December 2006. Since then, more than 275,000 people have been killed and 61,637 people are reported missing. 

 

According to authorities, drug cartels have been responsible for the vast majority of these crimes and typically use unmarked pits to dispose of the corpses of victims, making it difficult for authorities to retrieve and identify the bodies, as well as accurately count the number of deaths. Many Mexican drug cartels have been spotted to operate in the area including the Sinaloa Cartel, Gulf Cartel, Beltrán Leyva Cartel, CJNG, and Los Zetas. The Medellín Cartel and Cali Cartel were the first drug trafficking organizations in Colombia and had alliances with the Guadalajara Cartel, Los Valencia Organization, and Amezcua Cartel.

So what happens now?

Today much of Colombia's drug trade runs through a network called the “Oficina de Envigado” which was founded by Diego Murillo Bejarano, aka Don Berna of the AUC right-wing paramilitary death squad, and a known subordinate of Alvaro Uribe.

  

The US Department of State has stated that, “La Oficina play a major role in organized criminal activity, including narcotics trafficking, both within and outside of Colombia. Transnational criminal groups from outside of Colombia, including Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, have come to rely upon operatives of La Oficina for support in trafficking narcotics throughout the world.”

Alvaro Uribe has received billions of dollars from the United States to combat drug trafficking, he is often hosted in Washington D.C. by high-ranking US officials, and has received a Medal of Freedom from former US President George W. Bush, and is the mentor of President Ivan Duque. Alvaro Uribe was briefly arrested in 2017 and placed under house arrest inside his luxury mansion, but after pressure by the United States government, under the Trump administration which is a close ally of Alvaro Uribe and Ivan Duque he was released.

The Trump administration has close ties to transnational organized crime, US President Trump has also been linked to the cocaine industry and vice President Pence referred to Alvaro Uribe as a hero. There is more to Alvaro Uribe's tale of impunity which we will present in the 2nd installment of this series. Please remember to subscribe and share this far and wide.

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