Maps of poverty, coca, fumigation and alternative development The e-mail threats get scarier
Sep 212006

Here, courtesy of the News Hounds weblog ("we watch FOX so you don’t have to") is this exchange yesterday between Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and FOX News personality Neil Cavuto:

Cavuto [in his first question]: "Do you think Hugo Chavez is a nut?"

Uribe: "Is a…?"

Cavuto: "A nut? Crazy?"

Uribe: "No. Ah, excuse me. You do not ask this question of a president who is the president of a sister nation of Venezuela. Colombia and Venezuela are sister nations. We have had a historic brotherhood. We have a common present and of course we need a joined future. Any expression I admit on Venezuela should be a friendly expression."

Good for him.

9 Responses to “Uribe on Chávez on FOX News”

  1. jcg Says:

    Uribe and Chavez usually do respect each other as far as public remarks go, so while this may be surprising to Neil Cavuto & company, it’s business as usual.

  2. richtiger Says:

    While I don’t care for Chavez’s posturing, Uribe could learn from him. If Colombia were to begin the kinds of social programs that Chavez has started in Venezuela, the force (desire to escape poverty) driving the armed rebellion would be weakened.

    A nicer, kinder “Colombian Chavez” might lead the country toward the peace and prosperity that Colombians deserve.

  3. jcg Says:

    richtiger: The thing is, it’s much easier to do that in a country that is already at peace. But the point is a reasonable one.

    Under current conditions, Colombia needs to promote heavy investment in both social programs and in the war itself. That includes rebalancing the equation in favor of significantly higher investment (national and foreign) in social programs that are currently very neglected, of course, but the war needs to be fought as well.

    Still, IMHO, while the Colombian conflict definitely interacts with and takes advantage of poverty (and inequality as well), ultimately that per se is not the driving force behind it. Poverty feeds off the conflict and the conflict feeds off poverty, yes, but I’d say that the conflict’s origin was fundamentally political in nature, and so will its end likely be.

    Reducing poverty and inequality will be a part of that political resolution, a factor that needs to be addressed. But while the war is going on, such efforts face limitations that countries at peace do not have (even if their levels of povery and inequality are similarly high).

    That said, I definitely agree with your final thought, even though I would point out that somebody sharing Chavez’s personal style is not at all necessary to accomplish that.

  4. richtiger Says:

    Well, jcg, if you want to amend the “driving force” to include inequality and define the resentment over inequality as “political,” I’d certainly agree that the conflict in Colombia is “fundamentally political.”

    Actually, poverty per se is rarely in and of itself the driving force behind wars and revolutions. The very poorest of peoples are frequently too down-trodden to fight or rebel. When conditions begin to improve for such peoples, THEN they rebel. Thus, the French Revolution occurred-not because the French were so terribly poor-but because their rising expectations were thwarted by a too-slow economic progress, which was really quite substantial.

    Actually, when one dares to speak of the causes of war or revolution, the causality is always multiple and ambiguous. My posts tend to be short generalizations that rarely touch on all the facets or causes of a phenomenon. Thus, I can always be corrected by someone. In fact, I welcome such corrections since I tend not to have the time to write more careful “academic” posts. The resulting dialog probably gives readers the balanced picture that they need.

    Clearly there is in Colombia some kind of unique (?) intersection between poverty, inequality, a historical tradition of political strife, and-above all-the corrupting influence of a drug trade between the U.S. and a country uniquely suited geographically and ecologically to participate in that trade.

    At the risk of over-generalizing, I’d agree that the most salient cause of the Colombian conflict is the political refusal of the Colombian oligarchy to meet the legitimate demands of the poorer classes, who want to share in the very real wealth and opportunity available to the upper classes.

    As regards the capacity of the Colombian economy to support social programs-even in time of war-that capacity is there. Here is a quote from
    “Colombia’s Political Economy: Social Inclusion, Economic Growth” by Luis Jorge Caray S.

    “It would cost the state 2.3 percent of its GNP to ensure that Colombia’s 11 million destitute inhabitants will have enough alimentation to satisfy their essential needs. Today, Colombia dedicates less than .7 percent of its Producto Interior Bruto (P IB or GDP) to the serious problem of malnutrition, especially considering that 4 million out of the 11 million destitute and malnourished Colombians are children under 15 years of age.

    To comply with the 1991 Constitution, the state should dedicate 1.4 percent of the GNP to properly educate the 3 million school-aged children and youths who are not currently attending school.

    Health care for the 40 percent of the population without basic services would require 1.3 percent of the GNP….

    With more equitable taxation resulting in increased public resources dedicated to the elimination of inequality, the country could provide basic education and healthcare for almost the entire population within the next five years by increasing the percentage of the GNP used for these services from 1.5 to 3.5 percent during that five-year period.”

    Find Caray’s article on the web at
    http://drclas.fas.harvard.edu/revista/
    Click on the Spring 2003 issue dedicated to Colombia.

    My solution to the conflict in Colombia, then, is very simple. Escalate the war against the FARC, ELN, and remaining paramilitaries. Militarily destroy them as a viable organizations. Regrettably, much blood will be spilt in the process.

    Simultaneously, feed the people of Colombia and meet their basic needs for health and education.

    The short-term cost will be lives lost and enormous social/political/economic dislocation. The long term result will be a “new Colombia” that realizes its potential for peace and progress.

  5. jcg Says:

    richtiger: As you wrote, “the causality is always multiple and ambiguous”. I agree with that, because Colombia is usually too complex for any one explanation to get it all right. We all tend to generalize, yes, but even those generalizations often representing one or more pieces of the puzzle. Whatever the ultimate truth is, what we can do here is to engage in constructive debate. At least that’s what I usually hope.

    Basically, I agree with your proposed solution to the conflict, and with the general reasoning that you have now explained.

    The main differences lie in the details: how do I arrive at such a conclusion, and in my judgement of the difficulties that (IMO) are very likely going to be involved.

    That’s where the “political” aspect of it all comes into place. For me, “the most salient cause of the Colombian conflict”, as you wrote, does refer to the “political refusal of the Colombian oligarcy to meet the legitimate demands of the poorer classes”. That is probably the most direct reason and the strongest single factor, yes.

    Yet, alone, that is indeed an over-generalization. But the difference lies in that I assign more relative importance to this: context. Many, many other additional thoughts, decisions, actions and omissions of a contextual nature, all of which interact with what we call “politics”, but also with the “structural” elements of reality.

    All that and more, taken together, is what ultimately leads us to the here and now, in my book at least. For me, a cold, almost mathematical formula can’t, in itself, fully explain the actions and conflicts of men. It is a powerful tool, but an insufficient one, without context.

    That may sound a big vague or repetitive, but I wanted to avoid making this message longer than it already is.

    As for Caray’s article, thank you for linking to it. Still, I must say that I wasn’t only referring to Colombia’s overall economic capacity, but to the practical complications that those programs have to face when you try to implement them in the middle of a war.

    To put it another way, I am worried about how to overcome all the obstacles on the ground (both contextual and structural) that are not related to the nominal economic costs (which I assume that Caray has calculated correctly), especially those brought by the war (a war mentality, military, paramilitary and guerrilla plans, operations, actions, distrust, etc.).

  6. richtiger Says:

    Jcg wrote, “Whatever the ultimate truth is, what we can do here is to engage in constructive debate. At least that’s what I usually hope.”

    As do I. One problem with a debate via the internet
    is that you can’t qualify and correct instantly as is possible in a face-to-face conversation.

    I do very much appreciate Jcg’s thoughtful posts.
    Although I get the feeling that Adam’s blog is probably widely-read (well, depends on what you mean by “widely”), if it weren’t for jcg and a couple of other posters, there wouldn’t be many comments on the blog.

  7. Doppiafila Says:

    Hi, just to let you know that I’ve pubblished this info on my blog. Thanks for the hint.
    Regards, Doppiafila

  8. LordSavage Says:

    I know that I am very late to this article. I actualy am new to this site. But I would like to comment, and comment to the person “JCG”
    As a former Colombian citizen I would like to say that you are very very wrong about Chavez. And to say that Colombians would benifit by starting programs like Chaves?! Chaves is a murder. His top body gaurds are members of the FARC terrorist group. He staged his own coup to give himself the support of his cronies… and those who did not support him, he had shot. He has attacted the press and the church, like a good communist…dictator. I have three friends who are Venzuelan, they left this past March after their father who worked for BP was assasinated by the Venezuelan police in Caracas at 4pm as he met with other oil company employees…. No one did anything… no ambulance was called for three hours… he laid there on the steet with his jaw and left ear blasted off…the murders cops did not let anybody come near the body until the ambulance came. They told my friends mother if she wanted to live she better get out of Caracas by the weeks end… BP paid for her tickets to Dallas, TX where she asked for politiacal asylum… This is the Venezuela the left has fallen in love with. Colombia leftest, I pray never. Peace and prosperity will come with the extermination of the drug cartels and leftest terrorist.

  9. LordSavage Says:

    Correction: The persons name is “richtiger” NOT JCG. Sorry JCG.

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