Ken Silverstein and the American Media Institute | October 19, 2016
Clinton Foundation partner Frank "Poison Dwarf" Giustra: Vancouver-based penny stock pimp notorious for structuring deals toxic to his buyers but profitable to himself
Hillary Clinton has long said she is "very proud" of the Clinton Foundation's work, but many of its beneficiaries in Colombia wonder why. Since Bill Clinton established the foundation in the late 1990s, with help over the years from Hillary and daughter Chelsea, the nonprofit "global philanthropic empire" has raised roughly $2 billion from foreign governments and various wealthy donors to tackle global development and health problems. While intense media scrutiny has focused on the foundation's donations and its use of that money – partly because of the wealth of available information on its vast financial intake – less sustained attention has been dedicated to its accomplishments on the ground.
Colombia should be the Clinton Foundation's best case study. Ground zero for the drug wars of the 1980s and '90s, racked by uneven development and low-intensity conflict for half a century, Colombia has received significant foundation money and attention. Bill and Hillary Clinton have visited the country often and enjoy close relationships with members of Colombia's ruling party. Colombia has also been home to the vast oil and natural gas holdings of one of the Clinton Foundation's largest individual donors, Canadian financier Frank Giustra. In short, conditions were right for Colombia to be the shining example of what the Clinton Foundation's philanthropy can accomplish in the world, and what makes Hillary so proud of its efforts.
The American Media Institute, a nonprofit news service based in Alexandria, Virginia, partnered with Fusion to send us to Colombia to investigate the Clinton Foundation's impact. We interviewed more than 50 people in Colombia and found ground realities that contrasted, often starkly, with the nonprofit's claims about its good work.
Many of the Colombian "success stories" touted on the foundation's website were critical about the foundation's effect on their lives. Many labor leaders and progressive activists say foundation programs caused environmental harm, displaced indigenous people, and helped concentrate a larger share of Colombia's energy and mining resources in the hands of Giustra, who was involved in a now-bankrupt oil company that worked closely with the Clinton Foundation and which used the Colombian military and a surveillance program to smash a strike by its workers.
They paint a picture that belies the progressive principles on which the Clintons have based their political dynasty and philanthropy, embodied in the Clinton Foundation's promotional copy: "Everyone deserves a chance to succeed."
What's missing from the press coverage of the Clinton Foundation is a basic question: What do its activities and outcomes reveal about Hillary Clinton's political values?
Slick Willie and Poison Dwarf with Haitian child in tow, in 2014 (not to mention Clinton–Giustra child trafficking operations)
Giustra did not respond to Fusion's requests for comment, but his attorney said in a statement that his client had no control over the oil company in question and divested himself from it by 2009, when the Colombia charitable partnership began; Fusion's and other outlets' reporting suggests he retained stakes in the company's success. The Clinton Foundation said the Clinton–Giustra partnership in Colombia had succeeded for seven years at "empowering individuals through job creation, skills training and education, and entrepreneurship opportunities."
We interviewed a dozen young women in the foundation's job-training programs; female business owners who sought help from its programs; workers who toiled for a major foundation donor's firms; indigenous fishermen who were promised jobs and aid; and union leaders, social justice activists, shantytown residents, and progressive lawmakers. Some current and past enrollees said they enjoyed the job training, but had little to show for it. Some alumni told Fusion they lost money. Others said they were used as props. Still others simply thought that the foundation had wasted a lot of their time.
Rafael Cabargas, a legendary local oilworkers' union leader who was arrested during a strike at a Pacific Rubiales operation in 2011, was dismissive of the Clinton Foundation's and Giustra's activities in Colombia. "They are doing nothing for workers," he said with disgust. "I don't even know what they are doing in this country other than exploiting poverty and extracting money."
In addition to disputing several claims in this article, the Clinton Foundation in its statement to Fusion said that its activities in Colombia under what's now known as the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership had scored significant successes in "alleviating poverty through the creation of social enterprises." It cited in particular its success at empowering women in the workplace – an estimated 78 percent of its training center enrollees have been women, and 48 percent were mothers. And it cited analyses by Vox and Slate, among others, that judged the Clinton Foundation's global impact to be hugely significant and very positive. "The key question on the Clinton Foundation is whether it saved lives," Vox's analysis states. "The answer is clearly yes."
The jilted fish-seller
The Clinton Foundation showcases its Colombia initiatives on its website, boasting a variety of projects designed to promote sustainable development and help the poor. Sandra Valdivieso, a stout, charming Afro-Colombian fishmonger, was hailed in 2013 on the foundation's website and social media as one of its stars. After partnering with Clinton in 2012, the website claimed, sales at Valdivieso's fish shop, Pescadería Perlamar del Caribe, were booming, and her future couldn't have been brighter. "I am very happy, indeed," the site quoted her as saying. "Thanks to the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative and their continued support, we'll have all the tools and resources we need, such as the refrigerated storage rooms and support staff, to continue growing more and more every day."
By the time we interviewed her, Valdivieso felt differently.
In the Cartagena neighborhood of Crespo, off a busy street lined with small shops, Pescadería Perlamar del Caribe's blue-and-white facade and windows displayed three refrigerated cases of shrimp, octopus, and other fresh catches. Valdivieso's brother, Eduardo, in a white baseball cap, greeted customers at the door. The Clinton Foundation star, Sandra, was in the back working, as usual.
With a warm smile, Sandra told us that she was initially enthusiastic about working with the Clinton Foundation. She pulled out a smart phone and showed us pictures of the 2013 launch party for the "Acceso Oferta Local" program, a foundation effort directly supported by Canadian financier Giustra to match poor entrepreneurs – farmers, fishermen, candy-makers, flower vendors, and others – with big buyers, like multinational hotels.
She thumbed past a shot of Giustra to show us a photo of herself with Bill Clinton. The former president and the female entrepreneur had megawatt smiles.
"The idea was that they would help small stores and small fishermen," she said. "And that's what it did, but only at the start."
Sandra said she received no money from the Clinton Foundation and, in fact, took out a large bank loan at its urging. Paying this loan proved to be a tremendous burden, she said. In its statement to Fusion, the Clinton Foundation said that Valdivieso had benefited from "commercial advice to enter new markets and increase her sales, among other business tools."
Even worse, within months, the head of the Acceso project told Valdivieso that she should no longer deal directly with buyers. Instead, she would sell her fish directly to Acceso – at sharply reduced prices, Valdivieso said – and Acceso would resell them. In other words, the Clinton Foundation would act as a middleman and profit from margins supplied by the people it was supposed to be helping.
Sandra immediately dropped out, she said, worried that "if we had stayed with them, we would have gone out of business." Standing nearby, her brother Eduardo agreed, drawing a finger across his throat for emphasis.
The Clinton Foundation denied that Acceso offered sharply reduced prices to its participants, and said that the program "actually allows them to sell at higher prices by giving them access to new markets."
"Acceso tried to continue supporting Sandra Valdiviezo [sic]," the foundation said in a statement, "but after few months [sic] of Acceso's inception, both parties decided that it was a better business decision for Sandra to continue selling her products directly to her clients, rather than using Acceso's consolidation platform." It also cited several recent success stories from Sandra's program – including women farmers, onion-sellers, and the program's manager – who extolled Acceso's "immense economic and social potential."
Concerns about worker conditions
Formally known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the family's nonprofit was formed in 1997. (It was created to pay for the president's library as well as fund good works in a post-presidency, modeled on Jimmy Carter's sterling efforts.) Its staggering $2 billion haul, according to a Washington Post estimate, has come from American moguls, foreign governments, international capitalists, and multinational organizations, including the World Bank and United Nations.
So far, criticism of the foundation has focused on its accounting – donations are listed in vague ranges, and the same donors appear under multiple entities – and the possibility it violated federal and state nonprofit laws. The Clinton Foundation told Fusion that this scrutiny is made possible by its extensive public reporting and available financials, and cited its four-star rating from Charity Navigator and its "platinum" status with charity watchdog Guidestar.
Critics have questioned the practice of foreign potentates contributing large sums to Hillary Clinton's namesake foundation while she served as secretary of state, but no specific allegations of a quid pro quo have been proven. In a standard law enforcement response during his recent testimony before Congress, FBI director James Comey declined "to comment on the existence or nonexistence" of a Bureau investigation into the Clinton Foundation's activities.
2016 U.S. Presidential campaign loser Hillary Clinton
On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton trumpets a progressive vision: workers' rights, environmental protections, safeguards for indigenous peoples, support for women's business ownership – the sort of ideals typified in positive media reports about the Clinton Foundation. Colombian political progressives, particularly senators and union officials who have experience with the Clinton Foundation, conveyed skepticism to us about the former secretary of state's support for those values. Indeed, the interviewees were negative toward the Clinton Foundation in general – and, in particular, to foundation board member Frank Giustra's former sizable Colombian energy corporation, Pacific Rubiales, which they claim benefited richly from Bill Clinton's politicking and the foundation's operations.
Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo, a thin gray-haired three-term senator who once taught architecture at Colombia's National University, is a leading voice of Colombia's Left. He supports gay rights in a traditionalist Catholic country and opposes privatization efforts by his nation's ruling party.
When we met him in his wood-paneled office in Colombia's Capitol building in May, his desk was stacked high with papers related to Pacific Rubiales' labor practices, the result of years of investigative work by his staff. He did not see the Clinton Foundation and its partnership with Giustra's Pacific Rubiales as either progressive or positive.
"The territory where Pacific Rubiales operated," he said, thumbing through pages of alleged human-rights violations, "was a type of concentration camp for workers." It was a term Robledo has long used to describe Rubiales' work camps. Half a dozen veterans of the worker camps and union officials told Fusion similar accounts of dismal labor and living conditions, policed by uniformed Colombian authorities.
The Clintons' "poison dwarf"
The story of the oil and gas exploration company Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp., and its highly profitable Colombian adventure, centers on a graying, five-foot-tall Canadian investor named Frank Giustra. He made his first fortune in Vancouver brokerage circles where Adrian du Plessis, a former stock-fraud investigator, says that Giustra was known as the "Poison Dwarf" – a reference to Giustra's short build and Giustra's reputed penchant for deals that du Plessis said were toxic to his buyers but profitable to him. (After his public divestment from Pacific Rubiales, the company went bankrupt and changed names.) Giustra co-founded Lionsgate Films [in fact, interloper Frank Giustra hijacked the original company LionsGate from co-founder Stephen Shellen via treacherous co-founder John A. Hardy, a Vancouver lawyer, starting in 1995], wrote the lyrics for a song by Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan [don't give up your day job as a mobster, Frankie], and recently signed on as an executive producer of the upcoming Blade Runner sequel.
Giustra's relationship with the Clintons began in January 2005, when Bill Clinton spoke at a Giustra-organized fundraiser for Asian tsunami victims. The pair hit it off; later that year, Giustra's private jet took Clinton to South America to deliver four speeches, where the former president collected some $800,000. Giustra also organized a 60th birthday bash for Bill Clinton, booking Jon Bon Jovi and others for the event, according to The New York Times.
Frank Giustra speaks as former President Bill Clinton looks on during a news conference to announce the Clinton Foundation's Latin America initiative, bankrolled with $100 million of Giustra's money, June 21, 2007, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Clinton brought to the friendship three things that Giustra lacked: prestige, charisma, and global contacts with heads of state in resource-rich countries. The Clinton Foundation disputes this characterization of the former president's relationship with Giustra, saying Fusion pointed "to no actual contacts [Giustra] made through President Clinton." Many of the governments with whom they partnered are not known for the sort of transparency, good governance, and democracy that Bill and Hillary Clinton routinely call for when discussing American foreign policy.
In September 2005, Giustra and Clinton flew to Kazakhstan together to meet the Central Asian nation's president. Shortly thereafter, Giustra secured a lucrative concession to mine Kazakh uranium, despite his company's lack of experience with the radioactive ore. Within months of securing the Kazakh mining deal, Giustra had donated more than $31 million in all. The Clinton Foundation disputes any suggestion that the former president helped Giustra secure the Kazakh mining deal, citing an online Forbes column that suggested "Giustra, the eminently successful deal maker," had worked out the deal "long before Clinton's arrival."
In 2007, while Hillary Clinton was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president, Giustra pledged to give $100 million to the Clinton Foundation in a New York press conference. More Giustra-connected pledges followed, including $4.4 million from Pacific Rubiales (called Petro Rubiales Energy Corp. in foundation filings) and the firm's other financial backers, according to documents surfaced by investigative reporters at the International Business Times. The Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative to combat global poverty was born.
"The resource sector is prepared to step up and take the initiative off the drawing board and turn it into a reality for developing countries around the world," Giustra said.
Although initial details on the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative were sparse in their rollout press conference, the two men knew exactly where they wanted to start spending. They explained their vision together to a Canadian TV outlet in 2007. Clinton leaned back in his chair, relaxed as usual, reeling off charity buzzwords: "broadly-shared prosperity," "sustainable growth," "scalability." Giustra, with his trademark Caesar hairstyle, spoke quietly, rarely changing his facial expression.
"We're going to begin work in Colombia, where the government has already invited us to come," Clinton said.
The interviewer turned to Giustra. Why Colombia?
"We have several interests there in mining and oil and gas," said Giustra in a soft monotone. "I love the people of that country." At least in this case, the foundation's priorities seemed to march in step with the investment interests of its major donors.
Interview with Frank Giustra & President Bill Clinton
Giustra's firm purchased Colombian land from middlemen who had bought it from poor campesino indigenous farmers, according to government data provided to Sen. Jesus Alberto Castilla Salazar, the first campesino ever elected to the Colombian senate. Some of the land on which Pacific Rubiales is drilling appears to have been received from known drug traffickers, whose names appear on the "Clinton List" – a blacklist of mostly Colombian drug-connected businesses and associates, created under President Clinton in 1995 to bar U.S. entities from doing business with drug traffickers [excepting the Clinton syndicate of Mena, Arkansas infamy – right, Willie?].
One of the individuals Pacific Rubiales bought land from was Miguel de los Santos Peña Torres, whom the U.S. Treasury Department connects to a drug operation headed by two thugs whose evocative nicknames translate as "The Crazy One" and "The Knife." Peña Torres was added to the Clinton List in 2010, while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state – around the time that Giustra was buying land from him. The Hillary Clinton campaign did not respond to Fusion's requests for comment.
Castilla, the Colombian senator, told us that Pacific Rubiales used front companies (including something called Major International Oil S.A.) to buy up blocks of land and later lump them together – a conscious effort, he said, to skirt Colombian laws that prohibit single ownership of estates larger than 3,000 acres.
"This has created a grave situation, and they took control of land that was intended for peasants," Castilla said. "Land is at the heart of the conflict in this country and it's very important that small farmers have land. The government has moved in another direction."
Bill Clinton began promoting a free-trade agreement with Colombia in 2000, his last year in office. He also signed an executive waiver to push through a controversial $1.3-billion military aid package to the country while it was under intense international scrutiny for human-rights violations. After leaving office, Clinton struck up a close relationship with Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who served from 2002 to 2010.
Bill Clinton's support for the free-trade deal clashed sharply with his wife's platform during her 2008 presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton scornfully denounced the agreement, citing labor and human-rights abuses in that country. "I have spoken out against the deal, I will vote against the deal, and I will do everything I can to urge the Congress to reject the Colombia Free Trade Agreement," she told a union audience on the campaign trail. "I am very concerned about the history of violence against trade unionists in Colombia," she said in a campaign release.
As President Barack Obama's secretary of state, however, Clinton championed the agreement – as the Clinton Foundation was increasing its activities in Colombia and Giustra's investments there were growing.
Canadian "philanthropist" Frank Giustra cuts a ribbon with former US President Bill Clinton and Mexican businessman Marco Slim during the inauguration ceremony of the Acceso Oferta Local Food Company in Cartagena, Colombia on May 15, 2013. (Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP/Getty Images)
Clinton also appears to have done little to address concerns about corruption in Colombia. Shortly before leaving for a trip to meet Uribe there in June 2010, Clinton received a briefing memo from Cindy Buhl, a congressional staffer for liberal Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), that urged her to confront the Colombian president publicly about "the recent rise in death threats, attacks and murders of Colombian human rights defenders, religious, community and other NGO leaders."
There is no evidence that Hillary took that advice. She dined with the Colombian president at a Bogotá steakhouse, along with VIP guests that included Bill Clinton and Frank Giustra. (In her memoir Hard Choices, Hillary described Bill's presence in Bogotá as "a happy coincidence in our hectic schedules.") During an ensuing press conference, Clinton said she wanted to "publicly express our admiration for President Uribe providing a remarkable example of strong democratic leadership."
"Your visit," a happy Uribe responded, "the fact that you spent the night in Bogotá, and President Clinton's frequent visits, are a great manifestation of confidence in Colombia."
That same year, the Uribe government gave its blessing to a Giustra- and Pacific Rubiales-connected mining company to buy out one of Colombia's largest, oldest gold-mining firms.
This period proved to be a charmed one for Pacific Rubiales, as well. Its stock soared to more than $35 a share by November 2010 – which proved to be its all-time high.
Virtually all of Giustra's Colombian firms operated in remote parts of the country, beyond the eye of public scrutiny, and through a maze of shell companies that make it difficult for Colombia's politicians and press to determine what his actual holdings are.
"With Pacific Rubiales, it's a business with obscure and suspicious transactions in every respect," Mario Valencia, head of an economic research institute called Cedetrabajo, told us. "That's the most important business of Pacific Rubiales. To produce shares. That produced more money than the oil business," he said. "The whole point was to put out information to increase the share price and pump out more shares."
Colombian court and congressional records, corporate documents, stock-market filings, and Giustra's periodic public statements showed that he was linked to numerous of these holding companies. One was set up by Jürgen Mossack of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, the law firm made notorious by the "Panama Papers" scandal.
U.S. agencies and international lending institutions approved hundreds of millions of dollars to support Giustra's Colombian investments, which are intertwined with many Clinton Foundation projects.
One of the most prominent of these investments was Puerto Bahía, a massive port and oil pipeline project in Cartagena, which received about $150 million from the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) and millions more from the U.S. Agency for International Development. IFC's investment, the organization said in a 2013 press release, was its largest-ever "equity investment in support of a new infrastructure project." Puerto Bahía is being built by Pacific Infrastructure, a firm partly owned by Giustra, and the port was slated to be used by Pacific Rubiales.
The U.S. government is the major shareholder in the International Finance Corporation, and it let the deal go through – even though the IFC conceded in a detailed analysis of the project that Puerto Bahía could unleash "significant adverse social and/or environmental impacts that are diverse, irreversible or unprecedented" on the local community.
Millions to train housekeepers and baristas
As part of the investment agreement, Giustra's Pacific Infrastructure promised the IFC it would provide job training to Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples, and would support local fishing and farming industries. To meet these requirements, the Clinton Foundation and Giustra launched a job center (with partner NGOs who received more funding from USAID, according to the Clinton Foundation).
Fusion's visits to each of the Clinton Foundation projects – and interviews with some of the publicized beneficiaries – revealed a gap between the public descriptions and reality.
The promise of jobs initially gave poor islanders hope. But the few who received jobs were shocked by the dangerous working conditions, low pay, and callous managers.
At the Acceso job training center, an armed security guard led us to a back room, where employees told us that director Diana Barboza was traveling for several weeks. Another senior employee, Jose Colon, was at lunch.
At the entrance was a poster, featuring two women hugging, advertising the upcoming National Day of Afro-Colombians. Signs on the lobby walls thanked the Clinton Foundation and Giustra for their support. When asked for printed information about the center, the guard provided an enrollment form, saying that was the only information available.
Colon, a muscular twentysomething, returned about 45 minutes later and said Barboza was heading off to Barcelona that very afternoon. He declined to answer questions about the center. He promised to email a "protocol" to arrange an interview, but did not.
Its alumni have graduated into job roles that appear to require little advanced training: "housekeeping, hotel guest services, and as kitchen aides, baristas, food and beverage servers," according to the Clinton Foundation website.
Karay Baressa graduated from the training program two years ago. Since then, the 22-year-old has been working as a waitress at the luxurious Charleston Hotel in Cartagena's colonial-era walled old city. She earns the minimum salary of some $250 a month.
She said she enjoyed the training, but it has done her little actual good. "I get paid the same as people who didn't do the training," Baressa said, with a wry smile. "There is no difference."
The Clinton Foundation says that as of August, its job center had enrolled nearly 3,000 students and graduated 1,539, with a clear focus on growing hospitality jobs. "While many workers in Cartagena's tourism sector are hired without the training offered at the Cartagena training center, the center provides underserved youth with a leg up in securing employment," the foundation added.
One of Frank Giustra's main ventures in Colombia sits on the island of Baru, in Cartagena Bay: the huge 389-acre port development project called Puerto Bahía. Outside the project, two uniformed Colombian soldiers and a dog stand guard in oppressive heat under a tent marked with the logo of Puerto Bahía. Almost a mile past the guard tent, the fresh pavement turns to gravel and the port project appears on the left.
The site is cut off from the road by a barbed-wire fence and security guards, and the only visible signs of the project are a few towering white oil storage tanks. Somewhere past the horizon are the terminals and bustling trade waters of Cartagena Bay.
The Clinton Foundation told The Washington Free Beacon last year that its Acceso job training center has "helped hundreds of employees and potential employees" of the port project, many of them Afro-Colombians.
Afro-Colombians: screwed by the Clinton Foundation
Nearby residents live in sprawling shantytowns of concrete and wood shacks; the promise of port construction jobs initially gave them hope. But the few who received jobs were shocked by the dangerous working conditions, low pay, and callous managers, local union officials told us.
One incident encapsulated their concerns. Shortly before closing time two years ago, two workers were in the bucket of a large mechanical arm called a "cherry-picker," painting a massive oil tank. The machine suddenly bucked them off, throwing them into a cement wall. The wall fell on top of them, instantly killing 40-year-old Jose Munoz. The other employee, 28-year-old Sergio Luis Elles, was bleeding and buried, but somehow still alive.
Their fellow workers frantically pulled away the concrete blocks to save the trapped Elles.
Within minutes, an ambulance arrived. But, union officials told us, it didn't take Elles to the hospital. Instead, it took both workers to a nearby lunch tent. Other workers watched as port officials walled off the tent and paramedics carried the two victims in.
"Pacific did not want the stain on their reputations from workers' accidents," said Julio Carrascal, an official with the Unión Sindical Obrera, the Colombian oilworkers' union. "They didn't want the news to get out." Representatives of Pacific Exploration and Production, the company formerly known as Pacific Rubiales, did not respond to our requests for comment.
Truck driver Gabriel Martinez saw the men hauled into the tent on what was a very hot day – the recorded temperature in Cartagena that day hit 93 °F. "They kept them in the tent for an hour," said Martinez. "Then they left in the same ambulance."
Elles, the injured worker, died shortly after the ambulance departed.
The incident did not lead to safety improvements, Martinez said. About a month later, he saw another worker get his leg ripped open by a pipe. Martinez said he would quit if he could find other work.
Safety training is insignificant, say both workers and union officials. "The accidents continued," said Delmiro Mendez, a former port construction worker. "People don't die (usually), but they are injured."
The safety issues at Puerto Bahía drew the alarm of the oilworkers' union, which insisted that the firm observe established safety standards. But Puerto Bahía management wouldn't budge, union officials told us.
One Colombian lawmaker who took notice was Senator Alexander Lopez, a brash young politician with a reputation for speaking out on workers' rights. In November 2012, Sen. Lopez and his aides made the six-hour trek from Bogotá to Campo Rubiales, the oilfield operated by Pacific Rubiales, to investigate allegations of labor abuses.
His convoy was stopped at a military roadblock before he could reach the camp's entrance. The soldiers manning the blockade said they were under orders not to let the group pass through. When Lopez asked what authority the military had to prevent Colombian citizens from driving down a public road, one of the soldiers replied: "We don't work for Colombia. We work for Pacific Rubiales."
Golfing with the presidents
While union leaders and human-rights campaigners complained about camp working conditions, Bill Clinton flew in for a Pacific Rubiales pro-am golf tournament at Bogotá Country Club in February 2012. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos came to play a few holes with Clinton as a crowd of spectators gathered around the green.
Former President Bill Clinton, right, putts on the second green as Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, second from left, watches in Bogotá, Colombia, Feb. 15, 2012. Oil tycoon Frank Giustra, in sunglasses, stands behind Santos. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Clinton, clad entirely in white, didn't stop smiling. When Santos moved to leave after the sixth hole, Clinton gripped him in his famous bear hug. "Thank you," said Clinton, giving him a friendly slap on the back. "Thank you for coming." Key figures from Colombia's political, economic, and philanthropic world had turned out at the course to applaud Bill Clinton's work on behalf of the country's most vulnerable communities. Among the dozens of press photos from the golf course on that day, only a few captured Giustra in a white polo shirt, with credentials dangling from his neck.
The exhibition and subsequent PGA tour event, called the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship, raised $1 million for the Clinton Foundation.
"Bill Clinton didn't come here to play golf," Robledo, the progressive Colombian senator, said to us about the fundraiser, his lips in a tight smile. "Clinton opened doors for Giustra to do business here."
Picking up the pieces
The good times would not last for Pacific Rubiales. Although the company's stock climbed steadily after the Clinton Foundation announced operations in Colombia, it never poked above that $35-per-share price in November 2010. Its shares have since lost most of their value. Pacific Rubiales changed its name to Pacific Exploration & Production Corporation in 2015. It filed for bankruptcy in May 2016, a victim of the global drop in oil prices and a failed takeover bid.
Hillary Clinton has also had little to say about Colombia during her presidential campaign. She was last seen publicly in the country in 2012, dancing and drinking a beer at a Cartagena nightclub called Havana during the Summit of the Americas. The free-trade agreement went into effect a month later.
Hillary Clinton resigned from the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation in 2015, citing growing concerns about the apparent conflict of interest with her current campaign. The legal entity continues to bear her name. She recently said the foundation will continue to operate if she is elected, although it will place new restrictions on donations from non-U.S. citizens.
In response to questions about ethical concerns, Hillary Clinton has promised "complete transparency about donations" to the foundation. She has not detailed any reforms to its operations or regrets about its activities in Colombia.
Sandra Valdivieso still appears on the Clinton Foundation's website, its poster child for the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, months after Fusion first asked a foundation spokesman to comment on her criticism and experiences.
Progressive community leaders Fusion spoke with in Colombia continue to wonder why the foundation came to its country if it was going to side with its multinational donors over its unions and indigenous peoples.
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*EXPLOSIVE* Q & A on the Clinton Foundation - FBI Insider on 4chan /pol/ : "Ask Me Anything About the Clinton Case" - George Soros Is the Kingpin - Follow the Rothschild Thread - Clinton Foundation Uses People as Currency - Jeffrey Epstein's Child Sex Trafficking Network - Bill & Hillary Clinton Get Paid in Money & Children - Hammer HRC's E-mails, Dig Into the CF: Post Everywhere You Can