Rendón vigorously denies those reports. In fact, in September 2009, he sued Miami-based Radio Caracol, two of its hosts — Julio Sánchez Cristo and Felix de Bedout — and several Colombian columnists. "[They] used their control of the media to destroy Mr. Rendón's reputation [and] cause him to be the subject of ridicule, hatred, contempt and disgrace," his complaint says.

"Our lawyers in Miami are handling the suit," Cristo says in an email. "I have little other information about it."

Rendón's track record is likely what attracted Santos's presidential campaign to hire him this past May 9. It was just 21 days before a first showdown with an eccentric Green Party candidate named Antanas Mockus, who had pulled even in the polls.

J.J. Rendón
J.J. Rendón
Juan Manuel Santos (left) beat Antanas Mockus in Colombia thanks to the help of J.J. Rendón.
Juan Manuel Santos (left) beat Antanas Mockus in Colombia thanks to the help of J.J. Rendón.

El Espectador newspaper announced the "rumorology" expert had returned, and another source called Rendón the "creator of the dirty game." Hundreds of people signed on to Facebook campaigns to have him deported.

He says the negative press was all part of his unusual strategy. He speaks about it in a typically inscrutable way. "They created the idea that some Machiavelli is coming to steal the election. It seemed they were harming me, but in the end there's a boomerang effect."

The papers also linked an upsurge in negative rumors about Mockus to Rendón's arrival. On the Internet, reams of anonymous comments appeared suggesting Mockus was gay, that he wasn't born in Colombia, that he was an atheist, and that he had secret plans to extradite Uribe to Venezuela. Rendón denies involvement.

Semana journalist Ronderos adds, "Wherever these rumors came from, it did affect the campaign. Mockus is a sensitive guy, and it affected him emotionally for sure. He was really, really off when he tried to defend himself. It ruined him in a way."

Indeed, just ten days after Rendón's arrival, Santos surged in polling, and in the May 30 first-round ballot, Santos annihilated Mockus by 46 percent to 21 percent. Then, in the June 20 runoff, Rendón's candidate garnered 69 percent to take the presidency. "I became this very negative character for 30 percent of the population," he says. "But to the other 70 percent, now I'm a national hero."

The race cemented Rendón's controversial place in Colombian politics, says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. "He was seen as this master of dirty politics, and everyone was talking about him," he says.

As they play out in the next few months, the cases in Miami-Dade Circuit Court might enhance that reputation. If a judge hears the cases, defense attorneys will likely call critics from around Latin America to testify.

A third court case gives a sense of Rendón's financial success. He declines to discuss his fees, but this past January, he sued more than a dozen developers, claiming they had bilked him out of $3.5 million in fraudulent real estate deals. A judge tossed out his claim May 24.

Has all of this success made him happy? "You know, that's a very American word. I don't like it," he says. "It's mission accomplished, and that's all. I'm at peace."

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