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J.J. Rendon: Alvaro Uribe Did "the Dirty Work of the Chavistas Without Knowing It"

It's been a chaotic summer for Colombians. First, they watched their national soccer team win four straight games at the World Cup. Then los cafeteros were cruelly denied a trip to the semifinals by a bunch of brutal Brazilians and a bogus referee.

While Colombia was uniting around its team, however, it was also being pulled apart by cutthroat politics. The June 15 presidential election was so dirty it deserved a red card. There were defections, accusations of bribery, and a candidate who publicly pissed himself.

The only thing that wasn't surprising was the man at the center of it all: J.J. Rendón.

See also: J.J. Rendon is Latin America's Karl Rove

Rendón is the western hemisphere's most infamous political strategist. From his home here in Miami, he has engineered electoral landslides for conservative candidates from Mexico down to his native Venezuela. Critics routinely accuse him of orchestrating smear campaigns. He says he plays fair. Either way, with his black clothes and broad forehead, Rendón is viewed as the Dark Lord of Latin American politics. And yet, this past election pushed him to the limit.

"This was the toughest campaign ever," he told New Times. "It was tough, and in the middle of that fight, tough measures were taken."

Rendón spends much of his time in Miami digging up dirt on Venezuela's socialist government, which has declared him persona non grata and accused him of a laundry list of so-far-unproven crimes.

But this spring, as Venezuelan student protests sputtered, he shifted his attention to neighboring Colombia, where president Juan Manuel Santos was running for reelection.

Four years earlier, Rendón had helped Santos -- a porcine man handpicked by then president Álvaro Uribe as his successor -- crush Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus. Now Santos wanted his help once again.

This time, however, Rendón would have to overcome more than run-of-the-mill electoral season shenanigans.

During his first term, Santos had distanced himself from Uribe. Instead of Uribe's all-out war against FARC, Santos agreed to peace talks with the guerrillas in Havana. In February, a Colombian magazine reported that a secret unit inside the Colombian military had spied on the peace summit, probably for Uribe.

The former president denied it, but he nonetheless betrayed Santos by backing his opponent, Oscar Zuluaga. It was a setback for Santos, but nothing like the stain left a month later when, during a speech, the president pissed himself on stage.

The embarrassing incident went viral, threatening to turn the Colombian president into the laughing stock of Latin America.

"It was a crisis," Rendón admits. "People are going to think he's dying or weak. How can we have a president pee himself against the FARC? You cannot imagine the counterattacks."

So Rendón did what he does best: he spun the situation around on Santos's attackers by revealing that the president was recovering from a prostate cancer operation. He was hopped up on pain killers, bravely campaigning just days after surgery, the campaign argued.

"They were laughing at him for a week, and then we spun it back to show we were victimized," Rendón says. "People said 'it's not fair, move forward.'"

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.

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