|The unpleasantries between Robertson at the Embassy and Virrey
couldn’t have come at a more awkward moment for either side.
Robertson and his people were fanatically pro-Arena in the previous
election. To them, Virrey represented Colombia’s criminal interests. The
irony was that their ill-timed attack practically guaranteed Virrey’s election.
For Virrey, dealing with overt American hostility during the election was
much more problematic than he ever openly said. The Americans had a
long, proven track record of getting rid of Latin American leaders they
didn’t like. They clearly hoped to intimidate Virrey by bombing his
facilities in the jungle.
While Don Hernan was difficult to intimidate, they had managed to crush
his cash flow at the worst possible time. Being President of Colombia was
hard enough under any circumstances. Being President when all the
money ceased to flow was almost impossible.
So it was that Don Hernan instructed his right-hand man, Fernando
Rojas, to seek a meeting with Evans and Robertson. Perhaps they could
still work out some sort of arrangement, Virrey thought. In the interim,
Rojas was hard at work setting up mini cigarette-factories all over
Rojas contacted Evans first, in keeping with protocol. Evans, who knew
exactly where he stood in the American pecking order in Bogota, handed
Rojas off to the only person in his office he was confident had things
under control: Jane. Jane, in turn, set things up with Robertson, DEA,
and the CIA station chief.
They agreed they would meet Virrey, but not at the Embassy. That would
give an impression of warmth the Americans had no intention of
conveying. They wouldn’t come to Virrey’s penthouse offices in
downtown Bogota either. The compromise location was a large
Colombian military base on the north side of the capital.
Virrey, six weeks away from inauguration, asked Vicente Arena’s
permission to invite Miguel Escalante to the meeting. Arena, still
Colombia’s President, agreed. Best to have the Colombian military
Virrey, Rojas, and Escalante sat on one side of the table in the bleak,
cinder-block bunker where the secret meeting took place. The
Colombian military ringed the facility like it expected an attack at any
moment. Evans, Robertson, and the station chief arrived right on cue, as
There was an awkwardness about where to even begin. As soon as
Virrey laid eyes on Robertson and the station chief he felt angry again
over the blood these two had spilled. Why should I have to kiss the
asses of people like this, he thought to himself.
When the three Americans entered, the Colombian delegation rose to
greet them. Virrey pointedly shook Evans’ outstretched hand and
refused the others. He had nothing but a hostile glare for Robertson and
the station chief. Rojas, likewise, showed nothing but a cold formality
The Americans went out of their way, though, to greet Escalante, which
made Miguel uncomfortable. Evans had attended both Escalante’s
wedding to Ana and Ana’s funeral. Robertson and the station chief
thought highly of his anti-guerrilla effort and told him so.
To Miguel and the two other Colombians, it felt like the Americans were
trying to drive a wedge between them from the beginning. Miguel took
his seat, intending to say nothing during the meeting. Mr. Virrey is going
to be the President, he said to himself. These people are making a hell
of a lot of assumptions by trying to separate me from him.
Evans opened the meeting trying to be conciliatory. He genuinely liked
Hernan Virrey and just as genuinely disliked his own colleagues.
“We need to make a new start,” he said.
Virrey nodded in agreement. Robertson just sat and stared,
“With all due respect,” the American station chief said, “I’m not so sure a
‘new start’ is possible at this point.”
Virrey flashed with anger at that. So much for a fresh start.
“If there’s not going to be a new start,” Virrey said, “then we need to clear
some things up.”
“Such as?” Robertson asked, irritated.
“First of all,” Virrey said, “I intend to go to the UN with your own damn
DEA report. Then we’ll take it formally to the International Court of
Justice. I expect the American government to compensate me for
attacking my facilities.”
Robertson snickered. “Let me put this as diplomatically as possible,” he
said. “What the hell planet do you think you live on?”
Escalante felt his cheeks flushing with anger at this. He started to rise
from his chair and say “Who the hell do you think you’re talking to,” but
Virrey put his hand on Miguel’s arm to keep him quiet.
“Mr. Robertson,” Virrey answered, “I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you
again, since you obviously don’t understand it. Colombia is not an
American colony. In six weeks, I intend to throw you, your station chief
here, and your DEA out of this country.”
“So you can sell drugs on our streets?” Robertson shot back.
Again, Miguel started out of his seat in anger. Again, Virrey put his hand
on him to calm him down.
“No need to react, Colonel,” he said to Miguel. “These people won't be
around much longer anyway.”
“Are you going to make up with Botero?” Robertson asked.
Miguel felt a jolt of anger and grief at the mention of Botero’s name.
Robertson saw his reaction and pounced.
“Yes, Colonel Escalante,” Robertson said to him. “Don’t let him fool you.
He’ll make up with Botero as soon as we’re gone.”
Miguel said nothing, a quiet rage simmering inside him.
“He’s probably told you he won’t,” the station chief continued. “Then
again, he’s told a lot of people a lot of things. It’ll be interesting to see
how he sorts it all out.”
At this, even Evans had enough. “That’s no way to talk to the President-
elect of Colombia,” Evans said sharply.
“Gee, I’m sorry, sir,” Robertson said to him, voice dripping with sarcasm.
Evans’ face turned red from anger and embarrassment. Robertson was
“How rude of us to give Mr. President-elect the wrong impression,” he
continued. “Of course the United States will tolerate a known drug dealer
making peace with the FARC in a country as important to us as
Colombia. No problems there!”
Virrey and Rojas both stood up to leave at that point. Escalante
struggled to his feet to follow, leg braces less than responsive.
Robertson continued the attack. “Colonel Escalante, you need to know
America has nothing but respect for you and what you’ve been through.
But if you don’t know what kind of people you’ll be working for, someone
needs to tell you.”
Virrey tried to silence Miguel again, but this time he couldn’t.
“In case you hadn’t noticed,” Escalante said, voice like ice, “this man was
just elected President of Colombia. He was chosen by the Colombian
people. Not by the military. Not by the Supreme Court. By the
Colombian people. It was a free and fair election according to your own
observers. I suggest you respect the outcome.”
“We’ll see how much you respect it in six months,” Robertson said.
Virrey suddenly slumped back into his chair, his face ashen.
“Don Hernan,” Rojas asked, “are you all right?”
Virrey sat there in silence, staring at the wall behind Robertson.
Escalante checked his pulse. Virrey’s heart was pounding.
“Mr. Virrey, what is it?” Miguel asked.
Even the Americans froze in place, looking concerned.
Virrey pulled himself back together a bit, shaking his head slightly.
“I’m . . . I’m okay,” he said.
He couldn’t tell them, couldn’t tell anyone. Jorge Toromillo’s ghost was
standing directly behind Robertson.
“I’m here, Hernan,” Toromillo said, his face flat and expressionless. “Won’
t be going anywhere.”
That night, at Rojas’ insistence, Virrey took two sleeping pills and went to
bed. He lay awake in the dark as long as he could, fighting against the
overwhelming drowsiness. Finally he gave in.
Almost immediately, he heard a child’s voice calling from across the room.
“Abuelito,” it said. (Abuelito means grandfather in Spanish.)
Virrey looked around, not sure if he was awake or dreaming. He saw the
figure of his five-year old grandson standing in the corner.
“Abuelito,” the child said again, pointing his tiny finger at his own
Virrey looked closely. The child’s body was bloodied and bruised. The
little one was pointing to a gaping hole in his own forehead, where Tino
Botero shot him point blank. Virrey felt himself shaking uncontrollably.
“Abuelito,” the tiny voice said, “look what they did to me.”
The child’s voice was full of shock and disbelief. He poked at the hole in
his head with his tiny index finger.
“Look what those mean men did to me, Abuelito.”
John G. Cunyus
All Rights Reserved
|Excerpt from Angel of Death,
third in a series of novels
including Flames in the Jungle
and Toromillo the Hunted,
by John Cunyus.
|Latino Fiction, Hispanic Fiction