The dust has settled, the ubiquitous floral bouquet is collecting lint in our sitting room overlooking Bogota’s Avenida Septima, the Ferrero Rochers have been consumed and when all is said and done this entry should really be entitled “My Wedding Anniversary and some Political Intrigue” since that’s the way it happened.
For this our second anniversary, as is becoming a tradition, I decided to make dinner reservations at a venue ordinarily off the charts in terms of budget. It’s a special occasion. What the hell? The result was that depending on your point of view, we could have been dining in a) the safest, most well-guarded restaurant in the capital, or b) potentially the most dangerous or under threat restaurant in Bogota.
As we settled in, feeling a little at odds with the relaxed high rollers all about us we were not prepared for what came next. In the immediate vicinity there was the vallenato singer and the surgically enhanced lofty blonde teetering on her high heels accompanying him, both seemingly intent on drinking the contents of the bar alone without any form of food to accompany their costly night out. The American businessman lodged in a nearby international chain hotel with attractive company. The table to the left was accommodating a couple of recent graduates, elegantly dressed, parents and boyfriends in tow.
But, it was the table to the right of ours which is the subject of this update. As we respectfully followed the usher to our reservation Alba asked: “is that group of politicians?” It was indeed nothing new there. One continually rubs shoulders with politicians here and the telltale gridlock of armored 4x4s is a dead giveaway as to the type of clientele found within.
Hendricks gin was offered. Then a tasty looking whiskey was unsheathed. Armando Benedetti, Efrain Cepeda and Jose Obdulio Gaviria all seemed pretty cozy. Hors d’oeuvres were on the way, but then, so was someone else.
“Buenas noches Vice Presidente”.
I cocked my head expecting to see Angelino Garzon and entourage. No. But, I was far from disappointed. In strode Francisco “Pacho” Santos Calderón.
The Santos family is not blessed in the stature department, but, Pacho Santos’ presence was felt. This was no ordinary meeting. You have two-time former President Alvaro Uribe’s strategist in the form of Jose Obdulio, there is the President of the Conservative Party in Efrain Cepeda, the President of the Senate Armando Benedetti and then cousin to the actual president, former vice president and presidential hopeful for 2014-2018 Francisco Santos.
My wife understood that I was incredibly excited to be seated right next to these notable politicians and soon, our conversation moved to politics – rather than anniversary musings – as seemed appropriate. Our dinner, turkey, pork, goat’s cheese salad, asparagus and a decent Bordeaux all faded in importance as we both tried our best at eavesdropping.
From start to finish Pacho Santos did not stop talking. Conversations began with phrases such as: “Lo que no entiende Juan Manuel Santos…”
There was conversation about the FARC delegates in Cuba engaged in peace dialogues with the Colombian state. Mentions of how these guerrillas are not interested in peace and how they have evolved over time. But, perhaps most interesting was the talk of elections and Alvaro Uribe’s plans. Perhaps you’ve read it in the mainstream press, or maybe it’s something observers of the Colombian political landscape can surmise, but we snooped it here straight from the source in Rosales, Bogota last night.
According to conversations last night, former President Alvaro Uribe will be running for senate and is set to be elected by a vast margin apparently. One has to wonder and question the logic behind this snippet of hearsay and those more in tune with the machinations and chicanery of politics in Colombia will be able to direct me on this one. If Uribe becomes a Senator he loses his presidential amnesty/ protection status. In theory, he could be investigated and then presumably should any court have the know-how and courage, the former President could be found guilty.
Anyway, the conversation continued, whiskey was enjoyed and a straw poll taken of theoretical presidential candidates and their actual standings. 1. Juan Manuel Santos 2. German Vargas Lleras 3. Alvaro Uribe.
So, what brought these political machines together over spirits and laughter? Yesterday’s article in national newspaper El Espectador goes some way towards explaining the event. There have been calls to unite the various factions of conservatives to present a very real possibility of winning the next elections. In particular if Juan Manuel Santos is unable to persuade the FARC secretariat to agree to peace. This was a meeting of ideals and strategy.
And the question you’re all asking…who paid? As far as I could see it was Jose Obdulio. If this was the case, this presumably means that the money originated from the coffers of the Uribista political engine.
Were I a bureau chief for Reuters, AP or another newswire, I would be dining out every night in the hope of overhearing such nuggets of information.
And my anniversary? Great meal, wonderful company and plenty of conversation. Two phenomenal years so far.