Virginia Vallejo-Garcia is a Colombian author, journalist, media personality, socialite, and political asylee in the United States of America since June 3rd 2010. An award-winning anchorwoman, she lost her career in television and radio in 1994 after her romantic relationship of five years (1983-1987) with Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellin cartel. In 1997, she became the first Colombian multilevel marketing “Diamond”, and from 2007 to 2009, the #1 bestselling author in Spanish in the United States with her memoir “Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar” (Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar) published by Random House Mondadori.
Presently, Virginia Vallejo is known for her accusations against Colombian presidents Alfonso López, Ernesto Samper and Álvaro Uribe, whom she has denounced as beneficiaries of the Medellín and Cali cocaine cartels; and against President Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe’s defense minister in charge of the distribution of 7 billion dollars of Plan Colombia and responsible for the “false positives”, the killings of hundreds of poor young men to present them to the Department of State and the Pentagon as “FARC rebels killed in combat”.
In 2017, the Spanish actress Penelope Cruz will play her role in the biopic “Escobar”, with his husband Javier Bardem in the role of the drug lord.
Virginia Vallejo-García is the daughter of Juan Vallejo-Jaramillo and Mary García-Rivera. She is the grand-daughter of Colombian finance minister Eduardo Vallejo-Varela, a descendant of the family of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, leader of the Californios that shaped the transition of California from Mexico to the United States of America. Her paternal grandmother, Sofía Jaramillo-Arango, can track her long lineage to several royal European houses and Charlemagne. Her mother was the daughter of Ramón García, a Spanish citizen that had moved to Colombia in the early 20th century, and Josefina Rivera-Rivera, member of a conservative family linked to several senators of the Valle del Cauca.
Virginia Vallejo attended the prestigious Anglo-Colombian School in Bogotá, founded by her great uncle, Jaime Jaramillo-Arango, ambassador to London during the World War II. After her graduation in 1967, she worked as an English teacher in Centro Colombo-Americano and, in 1969, in the presidency of Banco del Comercio, where she met the architect of the institution, Fernando Borrero-Caicedo, founder of Borrero, Zamorano & Giovanelli, in those days the leading architectural firm of Cali (capital of the Department Valle del Cauca). The two were married in Venezuela in October 1969. After their divorce in 1971, she began working as director of public relations of Cervecería Andina, the second most important Colombian brewery after Bavaria.
In early 1972, Virginia Vallejo received her first offer to work on television that she accepted reluctantly due to the opposition of her family and friends. In due time, she become one of the most recognizable names, images and voices of the media industry in South America.
CAREER IN THE MEDIA
1972-1973: Debuts in her own section with political cartoonist “Pepón” in ¡Oiga Colombia!, Revista del Sábado (“Listen Colombia!, Saturday Night Review”), 8:00-9:00 PM. Directors: Carlos Lemos Simmonds and Aníbal Fernández de Soto.
1973-1975: Co-hosts Éxitos 73, Éxitos 74 and Éxitos 75, 8:00-9:00 PM Saturday night musical, THOY Television. Director: Eucario Bermúdez.
1973-1977: News reporter for TV Sucesos-A3, 11:30 PM. Director: Alberto Acosta.
1974-1975: Reporter and film critic for ¡Oiga Colombia!, Revista del Sábado. Directors: Alberto Acosta and Mario Franco.
1975: Hosts TV Crucigrama (“TV Crossword”, a contest).
1976: Co-hosts Cocine de Primera con Segundo (“Deluxe Cooking with Segundo”) with chef Segundo Cabezas.
1976-1977: International editor of TV Sucesos-A3, 12:00 PM edition.
1978: Elected Board Member of the Asociación Colombiana de Locutores (ACL, Association of Colombian Announcers).
1978: Invited by the Taiwanese Government to cover the inauguration of President Chiang Ching-kuo (son of General Chang Kai-shek).
1978: Stars in Colombian Connection. Director: Gustavo Nieto Roa.
1978: Marries David Stivel – Argentinian theater, television and movie director, and head of the “Clan Stivel”- whom she divorces in 1981.
1978-1980: Co-anchors Noticiero 24 Horas (7:00 PM news). Directors: Mauricio Gómez and Sergio Arboleda.
1979: Wins the 1978 “Best Television News Anchor” award from the Asociación de Periodistas del Espectáculo (APE, Association of Media Journalists).
1979: Portrayed in The Beautiful Women of Eldorado, Town and Country, November issue.
1979-1980: Co-hosts ¡Cuidado con las Mujeres!, R.T.I. Televisión.
1979-1985: Covers the Miss Colombia beauty pageant for different radio stations.
1980: Wins the 1979 “Best Television News Anchor” award of the APE for a second time.
1980-1982: Co-hosts ¡Llegaron las Mujeres!, Caracol Radio, 9:00 AM-12:00 PM.
1981: Founds TV Impacto, her television production company with journalist Margot Ricci.
1981: Invited by the Government of Israel to the Holy Land and Massada.
1981: Only Colombian journalist present at the wedding of Charles and Diana, Princes of Wales, which she broadcasts for Caracol Radio during six hours. She receives job offers from the BBC and the Crown Information Center.
1982-1983: Directs and presents ¡Al Ataque!, produced by TV Impacto, 6:00-7:00 PM.
1982-1984: Hosts Hoy por Hoy, Magazín del Lunes (“Today, the Monday Night Magazine”). Director: Fernando Buitrago.
1984-1987: Becomes the official image and spokeswoman of Medias Di Lido, the leading Colombian pantyhose brand, for which she makes television commercials in Venice, Rio de Janeiro, San Juan and Cartagena.
1983-1984: Co-hosts El Show de las Estrellas (“The Show of the Stars”), 8:00-10:00 PM. Director: Jorge Barón.
1984: International editor of Grupo Radial Colombiano. Director: Carlos Lemos.
1985: Anchorwoman of Telediario, 12:30 PM news. Director Arturo Abella.
1985: Declines offer to become the first news anchor of Channel 51 in Miami.
1985: Appears on the covers of Bazaar and Cosmopolitan. Elenco magazine names her “The Symbol of an Era”.
1988: Travels to Germany with a scholarship in economic journalism and studies at the Internationales Institut für Journalismus in Berlin.
1991: Returns to Colombia and stars in Sombra de tu Sombra, telenovela of Caracol TV. 8:00-9:00 PM
1991: Elected Board Member of the Asociación Colombiana de Locutores (ACL, Association of Colombian Announcers).
1992-1993: Directs Picantísimo (“Super-Spicy!”), a radio talk show. 3:00-6:00 PM
1992: Presents Indiscretísimo, a series of interviews with Colombian personalities. Director: Manuel Prado.
1992-1994: International editor of Noticiero Todelar, radio news, 6:00-8:00 PM. Directors: Juan Alvaro Castellanos (1991), Javier Ayala (1992) and Gabriel Ortiz (1993).
1999: In their millennium issue, magazine Hombre (“Man”) chooses Virginia Vallejo as “One of the 10 sexiest Colombian women of the XX century” and post her image next to Sofia Vergara’s.
MULTILEVEL MARKETING DIAMOND
After her career in the media ended in 1994, Virginia Vallejo initiated her activity in the multilevel marketing industry (MLM) in late 1995. As the founding distributor for the Colombian and South American operation of Neways International of Springville, Utah, in 1997 she became the first Colombian independent distributor with the rank Diamond. In January 1998, in the Opryland of Nashville, Tennessee, she was awarded the President’s Cup among almost one million Neways distributors worldwide; but five months later, her contract was cancelled. Her network of 22,500 independent distributors in the first 18 months rolled-up to the children of the owners of Neways, Thomas and Leslie Dee Mower.
In 1998, Virginia Vallejo hired Luis Fernando Salazar and Juan Pablo Riveros of Luis Fernando Salazar Asociados to represent her in a commercial agency lawsuit against Neways de Colombia. The losses of her network, and the exponentially growth in her sub continental operation, were valued in US $30 million by the firm of Enrique Luque Carulla, former dean of Universidad de los Andes. Immediately, Neways closed the branch, and their officers fled Colombia with millions of dollars from orders of the distributors and their tax retentions.
Neways hired Juan Manuel Garrido and William Araque of Baker & McKenzie de Colombia as their counsel. Juan Pablo Riveros Lara joined immediately B&MK: Luis Fernando Salazar had sold Virginia Vallejo’s case and evidence to the counsel of her counterpart. The lawyers of both firms travelled to San Francisco, where they split the retainer of hundreds of thousands of dollars that Thomas Mower had paid to his attorneys. To uninstall the accounting systems that proved the commercial agency and the exponential growth of the network, Araque and Garrido hired an accountant from the mob as Neways’s liquidator. Then, they remade the accounting manually and incinerated US $14 million in orders and tax retentions. Virginia Vallejo’s new attorney requested the exhibition of Virginia Vallejo’s statements in court, but Judge Jaime Chavarro-Mahecha (known for his corruption) denied the petition. He dilated the case during almost 14 years, and ignored the multimillion compensations of the plaintiff that five court accountants had calculated.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CORRUPTION
In 2000, Virginia Vallejo offered her 550 pages-long monthly statements to the Colombian enforcement agencies; but all of them refused to investigate the multimillion fraud against thousands of independent distributors and the Colombian IRS. The felonies were confirmed by all the accountants assigned by the court, but the Inspector General – Edgardo Maya-Villazón – and Alfonso Gómez-Mendez, Attorney General of President Ernesto Samper (1994-1998), blocked all the investigations. (Samper had received millions of dollars from the Cali cartel for his presidential campaign. Before the investigations of the Proceso 8000, Gómez-Méndez had incinerated all the documents that could prove the relationship of his boss, President Alfonso López-Michelsen, with the Rodríguez-Orejuela kingpins.)
In 2003, Thomas and Dee Mower and their counsel were indicted in Utah for conspiracy in money laundering and tax fraud of US $4 million in Malaysia and Australia. Virginia’s pleas to the American Embassy to investigate the fraud were also ignored by attaches of the IRS, FBI and DOJ. In March 2005, the DOJ sentenced Tom and Dee Mower and their lawyer to 30 months in jail for the previous felonies and obstruction of justice during the investigations of the DOJ. The Russian deaths were confirmed to Virginia Vallejo in 2006 by the special agent of the FBI in charge of the Mowers’ prosecution.
TRIALS OF SENATOR SANTOFIMIO AND THE CALI CARTEL BOSSES
In July 2006, former senator Alberto Santofimio – Pablo Escobar’s link to the political elite – was on trial for conspiracy in the assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, committed by Pablo Escobar’s hitmen in August 1989. Virginia Vallejo offered her testimony to the Attorney General Iguarán, but the judge of the case and the Inspector General Maya-Villazón closed the case immediately.
In Colombia, those who offer their cooperation to the criminal justice system are often murdered or disappeared, so Virginia Vallejo asked the American Government for her protection, in exchange for information and evidence on the criminal organization of the Mower family in 38 countries, and the links of the Cali cartel bosses with Colombian presidents and prominent politicians. The family of Gilberto and Miguel Rodríguez-Orejuela had owned Grupo Radial Colombiano, a network of stations where Virginia Vallejo had worked as international editor in 1984, and the brothers’ trial was scheduled to begin in Florida in September 2006.
THE UNITED STATES SAVES VIRGINIA VALLEJO’S LIFE
On July 18th 2006, the former anchor woman arrived in Miami in a special flight of the DOJ and the DEA. The official statement of the American embassy in Bogotá read: “Today, for safety and security reasons, we have escorted Ms. Virginia Vallejo to the United States, where her cooperation is sought in ongoing drug investigations”. The news created media frenzy in Colombia, South America and Florida.
In the event of her death before her meeting with the Attorney General Iguarán in early July to offer her testimony against Alberto Santofimio, Virginia Vallejo taped a home video in which she described the links of the former justice minister, senator and presidential candidate with Pablo Escobar. In the video she described how, in her presence, in 1983, 1985 and 1987, Santofimio instigated the elimination of Luis Carlos Galán’s “before he became the next president and extradite him (Escobar) to the USA”.
After her arrival in Miami, Canal RCN of Bogotá purchased the video. They aired it on July 24th 2006, and the program paralyzed Colombia: it was watched by 14 million people – an audience larger the final match of the 2006 World Soccer Cup – and Gallup reported 58% rating, the highest in Colombian history.
Virginia Vallejo could not enter the Witness Protection Program because her information on the links between the drug cartels and politicians were old for the ongoing investigations on crimes committed by the Rodríguez-Orejuela after the 1997 amnesty. (At the time, Virginia was training thousands of Neways distributors and prospects). If she returned to Colombia, the whistleblower journalist would be killed, so she decided to stay in Miami and request political asylum in the United States.
Six weeks later, the Rodríguez-Orejuela brothers pleaded guilty without going to trial, and they were given 30 years in prison. The DOJ took control of 2.1 billion dollars that had been frozen, and the fortune was split between the United States and Colombia.
“LOVING PABLO, HATING ESCOBAR”
“Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar” (“Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar”) is both a memoir of the author and a biography of her former lover. It is the chronicle of the evolution of a young pioneer and entrepreneur of crime that built in just 15 years the most powerful and brutal machinery of continental corruption ever seen. Virginia Vallejo describes how the explosive growth of the drug industry that turned Escobar and his partners into overnight billionaires was based on the licenses for private landing strips, airplanes, helicopters and flights granted to the cartel bosses in 1980-1982 by the director of the Civil Aviation Agency, Álvaro Uribe-Vélez, who later became the first Colombian reelected president (2002-2010).
On February 14th, 2009 Myles Frechette – United States Ambassador to Colombia during Ernesto Samper’s government – expressed his concern over “the connections of Cesar Villegas -Director of Projects of the Colombian Civil Aviation Agency – with drug traffickers”.“El Bandi” Villegas was Álvaro Uribe’s heir in the Agency and also a close friend of Ernesto Samper’s; he was killed in 2002, a few days after Uribe’s triumph as president, on the eve of a meeting with officers of the DEA in the American Embassy.
In October 2007, “Amando a Pablo, Odiando a Escobar” occupied place #272 in Amazon Books General, # 2 in Foreign Language Non-Fiction General, and # 5 in Spanish General. During many months, it was # 1 in Spanish History, Biography, Memoirs, True Crime and Contemporary Subject. Until May 2009, it occupied places #1 in Barnes &Noble’s Spanish History, Latin American History, South American History and Colombian History, and place # 3 in Women’s Biography General. In Tower Books, it was the only book in Spanish in the first 100 Modern History bestsellers, with place #7.
The release of ‘Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar’ caused another political storm. Virginia Vallejo’s book was mentioned in thousands of articles worldwide, including The New York Times, Time, Newsweek and People. Her accusations against on President Uribe were commented by Colombian, Venezuelan and Ecuadorean presidents, the State Department and the rebel organization FARC. César Gaviria – the Colombian president that ended Escobar’s reign of terror in 1993 – accused (Uribe’s) Presidential Palace of “weeping over Pablo Escobar’s dead body. The three-hour interviews with Maria Elvira Live! in Miami had ratings superior to 50%. In Brazil, her interview to TV Globo’s Fantastico! had 54% ratings. (Her interview with CNN en Español can be seen in Virginia Vallejo’s website and YouTube channel.)
TESTIMONY IN THE CASE # 9755-4, PALACE OF JUSTICE SIEGE
On July 11th 2008, the Colombian Attorney General Mendoza-Diago ordered Virginia Vallejo’s testimony in the reopened case of the Palace of Justice siege, committed by the rebel group M-19 in November 1985. She was asked to explain the contents of “That Palace in Flames”, a chapter of her book that describes Escobar’s role in the tragedy, the assassination of the Supreme Court Justices, and the massacre committed by the army during the siege and the aftermath. Her testimony was videotaped; but despite protection by gag order, it was filtered immediately to Noticias Uno and Revista Semana, owned by Felipe López-Caballero – son of President López-Michelsen -, partner of Pablo Escobar’s in the magazine and protector of his family. In order to cover-up the crimes of the Medellín cartel and the military, the media adulterated completely Virginia’s testimony.
TESTIMONY IN THE CASE #297, LUIS CARLOS GALAN’S ASSASINATION
In July 2009, Attorney General Guillermo Mendoza and Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez ordered Virginia Vallejo’s testimony in the reopened case of Luis Carlos Galan’s assassination. The purpose was to confirm the claims made in her book against leaders of the paramilitary squads founded by Pablo Escobar and his partners in 1981. The senator’s murder had been committed by 18 Escobar’s hitmen in 1989, two years after the ending of her relationship with Escobar, and when she was living in Germany, engaged to a prominent German entrepreneur, and cooperating with Bundeskriminalamt, Interpol Weisbaden. On the way to the Colombian consulate, the government or military tried to kill her. The journalist survived the attack, but she was injured and hospitalized.
PABLO ESCOBAR’S CRIMES “AGAINST HUMANITY”
In 2009, Escobar’s terrorist acts were reclassified as Crimes against Humanity by the International Criminal Court. The Attorney General Mendoza-Diago determined that, before their referral to the ICC, the complaints of victims and families had to been filed individually in Colombia. To prevent the reparation of dozens of thousands of victims through a class action lawsuit, Pablo Escobar’s son and siblings engaged in an impressive worldwide public relations campaign with the narcopresidents and their media moguls, coordinated by Publicaciones Semana: the Organización Ardila-Lülle; Beatrice, Alejandro and Andres Santo Domingo of New York; Haim Saban’s Univision and Carlos Slim’s Telmex, that hired Christian Amanpour for an apology of Escobar and his family. All of them had been involved in massive laundering and tax fraud, and the subject of Virginia Vallejo’s second book.
On May 14th 2010, Virginia Vallejo filed a request in the Office of the Colombian Inspector General, Alejandro Ordóñez, for the investigation of the consul and prosecutors that had filtered her testimonies and personal data to the media, following the murder of three more witnesses in the Galán case. Ordóñez – reputedly associated with the paramilitary Autodefensas de Colombia AUC – ignored the request.
POLITICAL ASYLUM IN THE UNITED STATES
On June 3rd, 2010, Virginia Vallejo was granted asylum on basis of political opinion under the precepts of the Constitution of the United States of America, the Geneva Convention against Torture, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The brutal attacks, unending harassment, character assassination and threats against the Colombian author and whistleblower were supported by hundreds of pages of documentary evidence, including tapes and videos. During more than one hour, the Honorable Liliana Torreh-Bayouth listed dozens of reasons to grant her political asylum.
Six days later, on June 9th 2010, Colonel (ret) Alfonso Plazas-Vega was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the disappearance of the employees of the cafeteria of the Palace of Justice and a rebel woman detained after the conflagration. Immediately, President
President Álvaro Uribe attacked the verdict on television and announced the retaliation of the army against “corrupt judges”. The next week, an international humanitarian organization had to take Judge Maria Stella Jara and her 4 year-old boy out of Colombia to save their lives.
On August 31st 2011 – and after 22 years of delays and appeals – Alberto Santofimio was sentenced to 24 years in jail for conspiracy with Pablo Escobar in the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán and two of his bodyguards.
VIRGINIA VALLEJO’S STORY, TO HOLLYWOOD
During the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Luc Besson of EuropaCorp and their American partners announced their film “Escobar”, based on “Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar”, Virginia Vallejo’s memoir. Javier Bardem will play the role of Pablo Escobar, and Penelope Cruz will be Virginia Vallejo. The biopic will be directed by Fernando León de Aranoa and distributed by Millennium Films of Hollywood.
“Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar” will be published in English and other 15 languages in the summer of 2017.