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Uribe Fools The Press And The Rest In Wash. D.C.

Uribe Fools The Press And The Rest In Washington D.C.


By José María Rodríguez González

First, in its rush to devalue Democrats, both domestic and foreign, The Washington Post has awarded international status to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, proclaiming him possibly “the most popular democratic leader in the world”. ("Assault on an Ally", Sunday, May 6, 2007; Page B06) If we consider Mr. Uribe’s real popularity with the Colombian people, however, President Bush, with an approval rating of 28% actually outpoints Uribe in the popularity department. By the Post’s own fantastical standard, therefore, it is Mr. Bush and not Mr. Uribe who should be called the most popular democratic leader in the world.

Of course, dishonest statistics go hand in hand with serious corruption in both Mr. Bush’s and Mr. Uribe’s governments, making it hard to see either man as a poster child for democracy. "Deeply troubling" (Al Gore) would be the most charitable description we could apply to administrations that share a deep distaste for either truthfulness or genuine democracy. With its gratis adulation of Mr. Uribe, the Post’s partisan editorial shreds its own credibility.

Further, the Washington Post chastises the need to gain Syria’s friendship to guarantee that Iraq’s civil war does not spill over to the rest of the region. It also muddles the importance of negotiations with Iran and North Korea to avoid worse bloodshed than the one in Iraq.

Second, Mr. Uribe claims that he made a better Colombia to the press worldwide. A convergence of national and international variables favored Uribe’s initial success in 2002: one, justified American concern with terrorism; two, the Iraq War. There were two other factors -- a change of FARC’s strategy and international pressure to rein in the paramilitaries.

U.S. money and advisors doubled the size of Columbia’s army, which attempted to blanket the country. Mr. Uribe did nothing. Then international pressure from the UN and various ONG forced Mr. Uribe to demobilize the murderous paramilitary. Crime went down. In the resulting stalemate, political kidnapping no longer was necessary because the Revolutionary Arm Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) already held more than enough hostages to exchange for 500 its jailed members. (Meanwhile, ordinary criminal kidnapping goes on and is largely ignored).

It’s well known in Colombia that the FARC also considers Mr. Uribe tied to paramilitaries. Within this state of affairs, FARC adopted a new strategy to counter Mr. Uribe’s slogan that it was merely a narco-terrorist organization. FARC concentrated on sabotage and ambushes, hitting army and police units. The most recent attack destroyed Cali’s police headquarters, in the third largest city in Colombia.

The persecution of thugs guilty of massacres and other human rights violations is the result of international pressure by ONGs, not Mr. Uribe’s initiative. The Alternative Democratic Pole (Polo Democrático Alternativo, PDA), the largest opposition party in the country, has been responsible for purging the political system of parapolitics (paramilitary control of government), the worst legacy of Mr. Uribe’s umbrella of parties that further uribismo. Mr. Uribe has resisted every allegation of parapolitcs and vehemently defended the accused, many of them today in jail.

Mr. Uribe’s boom of foreign investments is growing ownership of Colombian industrial and financial infrastructure that will eventually backfire, as it has in other resentful Latin-American countries. Corruption can destroy the best economical plan (not to mention the FTA) and corruption is endemic in different levels of Colombia’s everyday life. Mr. Uribe ignores this behavior and has made no meaningful effort to liberate Ms. Ingrid Betancourt, the renowned anti-corruption leader in the nation.

Last, it is the responsibility of U.S. to avoid an alliance that will weaken its political standing in Latin-America. It would be wise to assure ourselves that Mr. Uribe is not going to be such a liability. Forging closer ties with the discredited Uribe regime would be the worst mistake U.S. can make in a region where its moves are being constantly and closely scrutinized. The consequences can be irreparable. Iraq is enough. Democrats are doing the right thing to serve U.S. and to avoid costly embarrassments that --added to other missteps -- will definitely break U.S. political standing in the region.

*************

José María Rodríguez González - (U.S. foreign policy researcher)

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