Gerardo Reyes (journalist)

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Gerardo Reyes
Gerardo Reyes periodista.jpg
Gerardo Reyes
Gerardo Reyes Copello

1958 (age 60–61)
OccupationInvestigative journalist
Years active1972–present

Gerardo Reyes Copello (born 1958, Cúcuta, Colombia) is an investigative journalist. He works as director of the investigative unit of Univision Network. He worked at El Nuevo Herald in Miami, Florida. In The Miami Herald,[1] he won a shared Pulitzer prize in 1999. He is considered one of the most feared bloodhounds of hemispheric journalism.



Reyes studied law in Bogotá.[2]


Gerardo Reyes Copello, born 1958 is a Colombian investigative journalist who leads the investigative team of Univision Network. For more than 30 years, Reyes has devoted himself to investigate corruption schemes in Latin America and the ramifications in the United States of those schemes.

Besides exposing nexus between politicians and drug trafficking, he has dedicated several of his reports to the study of Latin American magnates and the concentration of the wealth in the region.

His individual and collective works have been recognized with the most prestigious journalism awards in Spanish and English, such as the Pulitzer Prize, Maria Moors Cabot, Peabody Award, three Emmy Awards, IRE for investigations and Ortega y Gasset and Planeta.

"Its subject matter is power in all its expressions: politicians, businessmen, officials and police. But also mafia bosses, murderers and corrupt bureaucrats. Reyes unusually combines investigative rigor with good pen '', wrote Lorenzo Morales in the book "Facts for Telling".[3]

He has been dedicated to investigative Journalism since 1978.[4]

In Bogota, Colombia, he was a member of the revolutionary investigative unit of the newspaper El Tiempo, one of the first teams of this type in the hemisphere.

After moving to The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, he published a series of reports highlighting issues ranging from medical malpractice and electoral fraud to drugs and arms trafficking.

He wrote the first systematic guide in Spanish of investigative journalism methods.

He is co-founder of Journalists and Research Editors, an organization through which he has promoted transnational collaboration among his colleagues.

The Beginnings

Gerardo Reyes Copello graduated from Law School at the Santo Tomas de Aquino University in Bogota. His first incursions into journalism began in 1978, as an investigator of Propúblicos, a Bogota foundation that supervised the work of congressmen in matters of bills, assistance and debates.

The results of this review were published by the prominent journalist Daniel Samper Pizano in the newspaper El Tiempo, and then compiled in two guides for voters.[5]

By that time, Samper founded the investigative unit of El Tiempo, along with Alberto Donadio, an expert lawyer of information access rights.

Both journalists invited Reyes to work on the team that, for over a decade, uncovered numerous official and financial corruption scandals and was emulated by other newspapers in Colombia and Latin America. As part of this team, Reyes published a series that documented bribes paid by the multinational Ericcson to several telecommunications officials in Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia.[6] The series was recognized with the National Grand Prize of Journalism in 1987.[7]

In 1988 he was hired by the newspaper El Nuevo Herald in Miami, where he worked as sub-editor for the local section and correspondent for Latin America. There he combined his investigative work with chronicles from both Miami and the countries he visited.

In the 1990s, he reported on Colombia's tumultuous presidential elections in the midst of the cartel war against the government. He brought new elements to the scandal of drug money infiltration in President Ernesto Samper's campaign. His work with reporter Evelyn Larubia on the death causes of a Colombian singer, during cosmetic surgery in Miami, led to the arrest of the physician who practiced it.[8]

The series received the Hispanic Journalists Association award in 1993 at the Press category. In September 1994, Reyes and his colleague Jeff Leen of The Miami Herald reported that several DEA agents in Colombia had sold Medellin Cartel drug traffickers their diplomatic rights to import cars into that country.[9]

During these years, Reyes wrote chronicles that were selected for anthologies of Colombian journalism.[10] One of them is the story of a Colombian maid who maintained a torrid affair with the great Italian mafia boss in New York Paul Castellano.[11]

He also published the adventures of a Medellin drug trafficker, who left the drug business to become a trappist monk, who was flocking to find a healing miracle. He also wrote a chronicle about an attractive woman who laundered dollars for the cartels. This last one was taken to the television in the series "The Butterfly".[12]

In 1992, he covered the trial of Panamanian General Manuel Antonio Noriega in Miami for El Nuevo Herald and El Tiempo. He also followed the maneuvers of a General of the National Guard of Venezuela to introduce to the United States a ton of cocaine, with the knowledge of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This theme was taken by the show 60 Minutos of CBS. Reyes collaborated with the segment producer, the legendary journalist Lowell Bergman.[13]

In 1997, Reyes discovered a secret account of $6 million linked to Nicaraguan Sandinista General Humberto Ortega, brother of the two-time president of that country Daniel Ortega. He also brought to light a plan to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro financed by the powerful Cuban-American Foundation. That same year, he published a report about a group of bankers that, after break in Ecuador, leaving homeless thousands of savers, lived a king's life in Miami.[14] In mid-1997 he covered for El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald the trial of several operators of a cell for the Cali cartel in South Florida.

In 1998 he participated in The Miami Herald's team which received the Pulitzer Prize for the best investigation.[15] The series denounced various forms of corruption in the city's Mayor elections. The Reyes' article of the series found that among the voters there were several people convicted for federal crimes, which should have prevented them from voting.[16]

Investigative Correspondent

In 2000, having published a manual on investigative journalism,[17] Reyes developed an extensive network of contacts with investigative reporters in Latin America. In one of his trips to Venezuela, with the cooperation of the journalist Luz Mely Reyes, he brought to light the first corruption scandal of the government of President Hugo Chávez: the award of a printing contract of the new Bolivarian constitution to mandatary's collaborators and friends.[18]

He worked with Argentine reporters on the ramifications in the United States of the business of President Carlos Menem and his family; with Peruvians journalists, he revealed the connections of presidential adviser Vladimiro Montesinos. He also worked with Venezuelans reporters in the coverage of a case about a Venezuelan businessman, resident in Miami, that was discovered with a briefcase full of dollars for the campaign of the Argentine president Cristina Kirchner.

In 2003, he covered for El Nuevo Herald and the magazine Semana de Colombia, the trial in Miami against the head of the Medellin cartel, Fabio Ochoa. For his journalistic career and his efforts to integrate Latin American investigative colleagues, Reyes received the Columbia University's Maria Moors Cabot Award in 2004.

In January 2005, under the title "Slaves in Paradise,"[19] he started a series that exposed the subhuman conditions of Haitian workers in sugar mills in the Dominican Republic.

Based on judicial records and interviews, he published an article in December 2007 that showed the ties of the father of then-Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez with a helicopter seized in 1984 in the raid on Tranquilandia, the largest cocaine processing laboratory in the history of the war against drug trafficking in Colombia.[20]

The report revealed unpublished judicial statements of the sister of the murdered Minister of Justice, Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, in which he remembered that his brother suspected that Uribe was implicated in drug trafficking. A year before, Reyes had published court documents proving an unknown fact: that Uribe Velez had been accused of the crimes of falsification and contraband in connection with the importation of a Turbocomander aircraft in 1983.[21]

Together with Gonzalo Guillén, a correspondent for El Nuevo Herald in Bogota, Reyes published other reports that shed light on Uribe Velez’s relationship with paramilitarism. One of these reports revealed the testimony of former Colombian paramilitary Francisco Enrique Villaba Hernández, about Uribe and his brother Santiago's involvement in planning a massacre at Aro municipality, Antioquia department, in 1997.[22]

One year after the article was published, Villalba was killed. From the work of the two journalists wrote Adam Isacson of the Center for International Policy in Washington: "El Nuevo Herald has carried out the most daring investigative journalism reporting on the power of traffickers and paramilitaries in Colombia ... much of this is the work of two veteran reporters from El Nuevo Herald, Gerardo Reyes and Gonzalo Guillén".[23]

Reyes and Guillen collected key testimonies that compromised Colombian military personnel in the forced disappearances of innocent civilians known as "false positives";[24] they also denounced the US government's cover-up of a military man and a US Army contractor involved in the rape of a minor in Colombia,[25] and the FARC's links with drug trafficking.

Reyes revealed in 2009 that then-Defense Minister and later president of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos directly intervened to prevent annulation of a contract of his best friend Felipe Jaramillo's company, although army officers recommended another company.[26]

A year later he found that a son of President Uribe had acted as an intermediary between a Colombian company of the Nule brothers, who were involved in a major bribery scandal, and the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, to participate in one of the mega-works of his father's government in Colombia.[27]

Reyes was a correspondent and advisor for Semana magazine until 2007. He also advised magazine Gatopardo and collaborated with the magazine Poder. For more than 10 years, he was a jury of the Prize of the Institute of Press (IPYS) and Society for the Best Investigation in Latin America. He is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). He has been a lecturer and professor at several universities in the United States, Latin America and Spain.

Work at Univision[edit]

In 2011 Univision Network, under a new administration by Isaac Lee (CEO News, Entertainment and Digital) and Daniel Coronell (News President) commissioned Reyes to create an investigative unit. The team was initially formed by producer Margarita Rabin and Spanish reporter and producer Tomas Ocaña.

In its first year, Univision Investiga produced the special "The Iranian Threat",[28] which shows how a group of Mexican students was recruited by the governments of Iran and Venezuela to prepare a cyber attack on the United States. The students did not accept the mission but decided to tape the diplomats involved, including the Iranian ambassador and the cultural attaché of Venezuela who was later appointed consul in Miami. Following the revelation of the plan in the Univision special, the US State Department expelled the consul. Chavez ordered the closure of the consulate.

In the middle of the year, Univision Investiga released an unknown episode in life of Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio, presidential candidate for the 2016 elections. Reyes found documents showing that in 1987 the US government confiscated the house in Miami of Barbara Rubio, the politician's sister and her husband Orlando Cicilia, as part of a large-scale anti-drug operation against an organization that imported and distributed cocaine and marijuana[29] in South Florida.

Cicilia was sentenced to 25 years in prison but was released in 2000 by reduction of sentence.[30] The senator, who was 16 when the events occurred, refused to talk to reporters seeking an explanation of how that episode influenced his political career and whether his family had benefited from the money of Cicilia. A spokesperson for Rubio called the quest for reaction as something outrageous to sensational journalism.

Four years later, The Washington Post, based in part on the documents obtained by Univision, resumed the story and expanded it adding that Cilicia’s role in drug trafficking had been more important than it had been initially reported. Details of the controversy that arose between Univision, Rubio, the Republican Party, and the Miami Herald following the report were the focus of an analysis by the media critic of The New Yorker magazine[31] and the Columbia Journalism Review.[32]

Univision Investiga aired in 2012 "Fast and Furious. Arming the Enemy" special, which revealed how the weapons of a covert operation of the US federal government ended up being used in massacres of innocent people in Mexico, committed by drug traffickers.

The special was recognized with the Peabody Award,[33] one of the most prestigious awards on television in the United States. It was also honored by the National Association of Investigative Journalists of the United States (IRE).

The team received the Emmy Award for Best Investigation in 2013 for the special "El Chapo Guzman,[34] the Eternal Fugitive", the life and adventures of drug trafficker Joaquin El Chapo Guzmán. The documental beat rating records in the history of Univision. [35] In 2015 Reyes and the Univision team were recognized with the Ortega y Gasset Award, one of the most prestigious prizes in the Spanish-speaking world, for an extensive chronicle on how drug trafficking has been taken on the illegal mining business in Latin America. The chronicle was published in The television version received an Emmy in the same year.[36]


In addition to the selection of chronicles compiled by Planeta in the book Made in Miami and the Manual of Investigative journalism, Reyes has published the following works: Academic text:

  • Investigative Journalism, Trillas, Mexico, 1996

Investigation journalism:

  • Made in Miami. Lives of narcos, saints, seducers, caudillos and snitches (Made in Miami. Vidas de narcos, santos, seductores, caudillos y soplones). Planeta, Bogotá, 1999, 200 pages, ISBN 9586147916.
  • Don Julio Mario: unauthorized biography of Colombia's most powerful man, Ediciones B, Bogotá (Don Julio Mario: biografía no autorizada del hombre más poderoso de Colombia, Ediciones B, Bogotá), 2003. 372 pages (2nd ed. Grijalbo, 2011)
  • Our Man in the DEA: the story of a photographer who negotiated the liberty of more than a centenarian of narcos in the United States (Nuestro hombre en la DEA: la historia de un fotógrafo que negoció la libertad de más de un centenear de narcos en Estados Unidos), Planeta, 2007, 360 pages, ISBN 9789584217707.
  • Flight 495: the ignored tragedy of the first air abduction in the United States (Vuelo 495: la tragedia ignorada del primer secuestro aéreo en Estados Unidos), Random House, 2015, ISBN 9588870348.
  • Frechette Confesses (Frechette se confiesa), Planeta, Bogotá, 2015, 264 pages, ISBN 9789584247476.

As editor:

Description of some of his books

  • In The Owners of Latin America, the entrepreneurs presented in this book are the richest and most influential people in Latin America. They were chosen taking into account the list of the world's richest Forbes magazine and the degree of political influence in each country. The presence of some of them in the scale of Forbes is intermittent, but the absence between one year and another does not seem to diminish its power.[37]
  • Our Man at the DEA[38] tells the story of a photographer who negotiated the freedom of more than a hundred of drug traffickers in the United States. The investigation took Reyes six years, more than 60 interviews, attending the trial of Fabio Ochoa Vásquez in Miami and unraveling almost a 150 hours of dialogues.

A year later, the result was a real "novel", full of humor, which in 54 chapters tells the life of Baruch Vega, the photographer of the most beautiful women of the '80s and '90s, in the continent. The book is being developed in Miami, Yugoslavia, Saudi Arabia, Panama, and Colombia.


  • Pulitzer 1999 to the series Dirty Votes, The Race for Miami Mayor, which exposed the irregularities of the city's electoral contest in 1998, such as buying votes and falsifying votes Of deceased persons and of criminals - he was part of the Miami Herald team that received the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.
  • Maria Moors Cabot, Columbia University, 2004, by Don Julio Mario.[39]
  • Planeta Journalism Award 2007 for Our Man at the DEA.[40]
  • Peabody 2012 by Fast and Furious: Arming the Enemy, The Peabody Awards
  • IRE Awards 2012 by Fast and Furious: Arming the Enemy, IRE Awards
  • Emmy 2012 by El Chapo Guzman: The Eternal Fugitive, Univision Investiga
  • Ortega y Gasset 2015, digital journalism for the piece The New Narco Treasures, Univision Investiga.
  • Emmy 2015 by The New Narco Treasures


  1. ^ Blofield, M. The Politics of Moral Sin: Abortion and Divorce in Spain, Chile and Argentina. Page 212, Note 1
  2. ^ 6th Annual Reva and David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley. April 13–15, 2012.
  3. ^ Hechos para contar: conversaciones con 10 periodistas colombianos sobre su oficio’’, Lorenzo Morales y Marta Ruiz. Editorial Debate, 2014
  4. ^ Daniel Santoro (journalist): Técnicas de Investigación (pp 189) México, FCE, 2004 ISBN 968-16-7241-0.
  5. ^ ¿Por quién votar?, una guía evaluativa de cada congresista, elaboarda por periodistas de investigación para que usted sepa por quién vota’’, Daniel Samper, Fernando Umaña, Alberto Donadio, Alberto Maldonado, Guillermo Rivas, Liliana Tafur, Editorial Oveja Negra, 1982
  6. ^ “Millonarios sobornos pagó la Ericsson’’, El Tiempo, Sept. 1, 1987.
  7. ^ Gran Premio Nacional de Periodismo en categoría de Prensa, Círculo de periodistas de Bogotá, 9 de febrero de 1987
  8. ^ Las crónicas fueron publicadas tanto en El Nuevo Herald como The Miami Herald. “Mala suerte mató a paciente, dice cirujano cosmético’’, El Nuevo Herald, 26 de julio de 1992, p. 1ª.; Cosmetic surgeon blames bad luck for patient’s death’’, The Miami Herald, julio 26, 1992, p. 1ª .
  9. ^ “DEA checking if agent helped cartel buy a car’’, The Miami Herald, Gerardo Reyes y Jeff Leen, p. 1A
  10. ^ Las crónicas fueron publicadas originalmente en el diario El Nuevo Herald y luego en el libro de Reyes, “Made in Miami, vidas de narcos, santos, seductores y soplones’’, Editorial Planeta, Colombiana, 1999. Fueron seleccionadas para “Antología de grandes crónicas colombianas’’, Tomo II 1949-2004. Selección y prólogo de Daniel Samper Pizano, Editorial Aguilar 2004; “La pasión de contar: el periodismo narrativo en Colombia, 1638-200’’, Editorial Universidad de Antioquia, Juan José Hoyos, estudio preliminar y selección; Años de Fuego, grandes reportajes de la última década, Editorial Planeta-Semana, 2001
  11. ^ “Seis años conviviendo con El Padrino’’, El Nuevo Herald, 4 de agosto de 1991, p.1ª
  12. ^ Reyes fue argumentista de esta serie producida por Fox Telecolombia y transmitida por el Canal RCN en 2012 . Su preestreno se realizó en Chile un año antes.
  13. ^ La pelicula The Insider se basa en un caso de autocensura que provocó la salida de Bergman de 60 Minutes
  14. ^ “Banqueros quiebran en Ecuador y viven como Reyes en Miami’’, El Nuevo Herald, 9 de noviembre de 1999, página 4 A
  15. ^ Dirty Votes’’, serie publicada entre diciembre de 1997 y mayo de 1998, en el que se denunció la compra de votos, votantes fallecidos o que no tenían derecho a votar por ser convictos. En la investigación participaron 23 periodistas y editores.
  16. ^ The 6th Annual Reva & David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium: Friday, April 13 – Sunday, April 15, 2012 at U.C. Berkeley
  17. ^ “Periodismo de Investigación’’, Gerardo Reyes, Editorial Trillas, México, 1996
  18. ^ “Aliados de Chávez en negocio polémico’’, febrero 10 de 2000, El Nuevo Herald
  19. ^ “Esclavos en el Paraíso’’, El Nuevo Herald enero 9 de 2005, p. 1A
  20. ^ “Cabos sueltos en la muerte de Lara Bonilla’’, 9 de diciembre de 2007, p. 1A
  21. ^ “Alvaro Uribe y el caso de la nave del olvido’’, El Nuevo Herald, mayo 14 de 2006. Pag.25A
  22. ^ “Detalles del testimonio que involucre a Uribe con la massacre de El Aro", Gonzalo Guillén y Gerardo Reyes, El Nuevo Herald, abril 30 de 2008
  23. ^ “Plan Colombia and beyond", blog de Adam Isaacson, diciembre, 2007
  24. ^ “La verdad escabrosa de los falsos positivos", Gonzalo Guillén y Gerardo Reyes, El Nuevo Herald, 13 de junio de 2009, p. 1A
  25. ^ “Cuestionan investigación de EEUU por violación de niña en Colombia"
  26. ^ Investigan por favoritismo a ex ministro de Defensa, El Nuevo Herald, 25 de mayo de 2009
  27. ^ “Hijo de Uribe aflora en investigación’’, El Nuevo Herald, 15 de diciembre de 2010
  28. ^
  29. ^ Una verdad inconveniente sobre la familia de Marco Rubio
  30. ^ The drug-smuggling case that brought anguish to Marco Rubio’s family’’, Manuel Roig-Franzia y Scott Higham, The Washington Post, 12 de diciembre de 2015.
  31. ^ “War of Choice, Marco Rubio and the GOP play a dangerous game on immigration’’, Ken Auleta, The New Yorker, enero 9, 2012.
  32. ^ Darts and Laurels Univision, The Miami Herald, and Marco Rubio, the GOP's rising star’’, Columbia Journalism Review
  33. ^ Rápido y Furioso, (Fast & Furious), Univision.
  34. ^ El Chapo Guzmán, el eterno fugitivo, Univision Investiga
  35. ^ Alexander, H. Is 'El Chapo' the new 'Narcos'? American television set to air series based on Guzman's life. April 23, 2017, 11:43AM
  36. ^ Los Nuevos Narcotesoros, Univisión Investiga
  37. ^ Reyes, G. Los Duenos De America Latina / The Owners of Latin America. 2013
  38. ^ [2007, 360 pages, ISBN 9789584217707]
  39. ^ Los Premios Cabot 2004.
  40. ^ Sitio de la Facultad de Periodismo de la UNLP, Argentina.