Colombia: Behind the Defense of Alvaro Uribe Stands a US PR Firm

September 8, 2020

After being charged, former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe hired a U.S. company specializing in lobbying to attack his accusers. Uribe’s family will pay $40,000 a month for a strategy that seeks to discredit the accusations and clean up their image in the United States.

“Where most see problems, we see opportunities. The slogan of the DCI Group, a US company, seems to explain perfectly why it agreed to take on an eye-catching campaign in networks and media to try to clean up the image of former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez, while dirtying the image of the Colombian Attorney General’s Office, which is investigating him for witness tampering.

Since Uribe was charged and placed in custody, a website called Free Uribe has emerged, which, as the site explains, aims to be “a central informational resource about the arbitrary arrest of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the facts surrounding the legal actions against him”.

The description acknowledges that the campaign is being conducted by the DCI Group “on behalf of Álvaro Uribe Vélez” and that it has additional information from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The site is divided into four categories: “Facts about Alvaro Uribe,” “Facts about the case,” “Facts about the FARC,” and “Facts about Uribe’s accusers”. In all sections, arguments are presented about Uribe’s innocence and the alleged relationship between Uribe’s accusers, the Justice Department, and former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

“The truth is that this is an entirely political case, led by the FARC’s political allies, whom Uribe almost drove to extinction when he was president. The FARC could not kill him, nor overthrow him, nor silence him, so now they seek to imprison him,” reads one of the texts, summarizing the content of the site.

How much does it cost to clean Uribe’s image?

DCI Group’s work behind the site has its cost. At the end of August, AP news agency journalist Joshua Goodman disclosed a contract signed on August 20, 2020 between the company and the firm 31416 S.A.S., owned by Tomás Uribe Moreno, son of the former president.

The contract establishes that the consultancy will be extended, in principle, until November 30, 2020, at a cost of $40,000 per month.

As explained by the son of the former president in statements collected by the Colombian magazine Semana, the payment for the services will be made by the family and by “thousands of people” who support Uribe and believe that his detention is arbitrary and constitutes “a threat to democracy and freedom in Colombia”.

Uribe’s son also provided a key to understanding why DCI Group’s campaign is strongly focused on convincing U.S. citizens of Uribe’s innocence. For his son, the actions taken by Uribe Velez against drug trafficking “were largely due to the support and trust of the United States”.

“For this reason it seems to us absolutely transcendental that the United States, its government, its Congress, its judicial branch, know that behind the process against Uribe’s is the leading senator of the new generation of the FARC, Senator Cepeda, who was also the architect of the escape of Jesús Santrich, a FARC drug trafficker requested for extradition by the United States,” he said.

In line with what Uribe’s son said, Democratic Senator Ivan Cepeda is one of the targets most hit by the campaign initiated in Free Uribe. The site assures that “Senator Iván Cepeda and the FARC have had the same common objective for the last decade; to reverse the success of Plan Colombia and replace it with a Marxist state.

DCI Group’s background seems to support the interests of Uribe’s family. Indeed, the Washington and Brussels-based company, which promotes itself as “the deepest and most sophisticated political network in the public affairs industry,” has a past that is close to U.S. spheres of power.

The company, founded in 1996 by Tom Synhorst, Doug Goodyear and Tim Hyde, has been active since its inception in areas close to the U.S. Republican Party. In fact, several of the firm’s principal members were advisors to the campaign that brought George W. Bush to the White House in 2000. In 2004 they returned to advise Bush, although already with a contract between the candidate and DCI.

They also advised Republican candidate John McCain in the 2008 elections, but the firm’s representatives were forced to resign after it became known that the firm had advised the Burmese government between 2002 and 2003.

Source: Sputnik, translation, Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau