ARENA Strategist Takes Fall in Colombian Drug Scandal

Source: CISPES

The former campaign advisor to El Salvador’s right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party has found himself on the receiving end of a major publicity scandal, the likes of which he is accustomed to inciting but not weathering.

JJ Rendón, the notorious Venezuelan strategist and self-proclaimed “rumorology” specialist for Latin America’s political Right, is accused of accepting $12 million in bribes from Colombian drug lords while working to negotiate between the narcotraffickers and the Colombian government in 2011. The charges are particularly poignant, given that much of Rendón’s publicity campaign for ARENA’s 2014 presidential bid centered on circulating false linkages between the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party and narcotraffickers. In the midst of the ensuing media storm, Rendón was forced to resign from his current stint running Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ reelection campaign.

On Sunday, May 4, the Colombian daily El Espectador published an article citing Javier Antonio Calle Serna, or “Comba,” the former leader of the Rastrojos, a Colombian group of paramilitary assassins-turned-narcotraffickers. Comba had confessed the payment to US authorities in New York, where he is incarcerated after turning himself in to the DEA in 2012. According to Comba, he and several other major narcotraffickers paid Rendón to present a proposal to the Colombian authorities for the narcotraffickers’ surrender that excluded their extradition to the United States—a proposal that was rejected by the Colombian government.

Rendón has denied the allegations as “political persecution,” but Colombia’s Attorney General has announced it will send representatives to question Calle Serna in New York to determine if an official investigation will be opened. Rendón also faces charges for sexual assault in his native Venezuela, and currently resides in Miami, Florida.