Colombia’s media over the past few days are full of elite, “respectable” opinion writers using some unusually dire language to describe the state of their country’s democracy. The cause, of course, is last week’s bare-majority vote in Colombia’s Congress allowing a referendum to let President Ãlvaro Uribe run for a third term.
Some examples follow.
The future dynamic appears to be one of the enthronement of a plebiscitary democracy without counterweights. The political-institutional cost of this phenomenon could be incalculable. …
What I still cannot understand is the President’s attitude. That of submitting the country to this exhausting and disconcerting process and that of castrating any possibility of democratic alteration in power. That of not having sown, after seven years, the continuity of his ideas through so many uribista leaders willing to take his place. That of thinking himself, in the end, indispensable and irreplaceable.
This reveals an egoism that could devolve into a caudillismo that is indigestible and, in the long term, damaging to the country. What Uribe is proposing, without saying it (because he doesn’t speak of such issues) is that in today’s world things are different, and we must overcome all of these democratic scruples, all of this legal formalism and all of this institutional tradition in order to consolidate the politically correct ideas that he embodies.
A conviction that is no doubt sincere. Just as those of ChÃ¡vez, Evo or Correa might be in their governing platforms. …
I esteem and respect President Uribe and I admire his capacity for work and leadership, which few Colombian presidents have shown. I supported his first reelection, but today it gives me the shivers to think that he believes that two were not enough and that he is seeking, at any price, a third term.
- Enrique Santos CalderÃ³n, co-director of El Tiempo and brother of Vice-President Francisco Santos, writing in El Tiempo.
This is not the moment to be complacent about Colombian democracy, nor with the will of the majority. It is time to pass from yellow to red alert. The government and its congressional supporters possess absolute power, and they have demonstrated that they will not be detained by legal or regulatory barriers, nor will they respect the Constitution. It must not be forgotten that the majority of coups d’etat have been directed by charismatic leaders – prominently that of Hitler in 1933 – … and that they are carried out with the collaboration or complicity of legislators who are captive, attracted, coopted or intimidated by the executive backed by the military or by popular majorities.
- Rudolf Hommes, minister of finance in the government of CÃ©sar Gaviria, writing in El Tiempo.
From this point forward I announce that I will not vote again for President Uribe, though I admire him and though I thank him for all that he has undoubtedly done for the country.
My complaint with Uribe is about what I consider to be the two largest failures of the sum of his two terms: his unwon war against corruption and his impotence when it comes to redistributing income among Colombians.
Doing away with corruption was even his campaign theme. But not only do we not breath any air of political or administrative health, many of the government’s attitudes – including the methods used to approve the referendum – are acting directly and publicly as terrible examples for the collective unconscious of the Colombian people, which already shows a propensity toward easy money and get-rich-quick schemes. I can’t remember the country ever having a worse atmosphere when it comes to the issue of corruption.
- El Tiempo columnist MarÃa Isabel Rueda, a professed supporter of Uribe since he was governor of Antioquia department in the mid-1990s.
Let’s see whether in twelve years the caudillo Uribe is able to beat the FARC, but maybe not four but eight more years will be needed, until 16 or 20 are completed (or perhaps 40 or 50, like Fidel and like Franco). Why don’t we just prepare another constitutional reform that will allow our PerÃ³n, our Porfirio, to govern until 2030? Or until there is a soldier for every coca plant and half the country’s budget is sucked up by a big-bellied army.
- Bestselling (in Colombia) author HÃ©ctor Abad Faciolince, writing in El Espectador.