Friday links “This free-trade agreement is dead.”
Oct 162007

Last week the largest party in the coalition backing Colombian President Álvaro Uribe approved a resolution calling on Uribe to run for an unprecedented third consecutive term in 2010. The “Party of the ‘U’” promised to gather the 1.3 millionsignatures necessary for a petition to amend Colombia’s constitution to allow Uribe to run again.

If Uribe’s popularity rating continues to hover at around 60-70 percent, as it has for five years, he very well could win again and serve until 2014. Though he hinted in September that he might not seek re-election in 2010, Uribe has been curiously silent about the “U” Party’s latest move.

There are many in Washington, CIP included, who believe that the United States has pursued an unbalanced, reckless, exceedingly militarized and ineffective strategy in Colombia. Most of us believe that as part of that strategy, the U.S. government has been too warm, unquestioning and uncritical in its public embrace of Álvaro Uribe.

If President Uribe wants to do us a great favor, if he wants to make our work in Washington far easier, he should absolutely run for a third term.

  • If he stays for a third term, Álvaro Uribe’s stock would drop dramatically in U.S. public opinion. By laying bare Uribe’s inability to loosen his grip on power, by highlighting his refusal to let Colombia’s institutions develop and do their jobs, a new re-election effort would leave a terrible taste here. Even if Uribe continued to position himself as a close U.S. ally, those in Washington who have been concerned about his authoritarian tendencies would have their suspicions confirmed.
  • Members of Colombia’s political class who have been waiting for Uribe to step aside and give them a turn would drop out of the president’s coalition – and become vocal critics with access to Washington opinionmakers.
  • Surely, some in Washington would continue to back Uribe, if only because he isn’t Hugo Chávez. But Uribe’s remaining U.S. backers would no longer be able to argue that the United States must support “Colombia’s Winston Churchill.” The more accurate analogy would become, perhaps, “Colombia’s Alberto Fujimori” – or in words attributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt, “an S.O.B., but our S.O.B.”
  • Should a third term become a serious possibility, continued U.S. assistance to Colombia – even economic aid – would become a much tougher sell. By 2010, the United States will probably have given Colombia $7 billion since Plan Colombia’s inception a decade earlier. After so much investment in “South America’s oldest democracy,” such strong evidence of that democracy’s degradation would place the entire policy in doubt. Future aid near today’s generous levels would be unlikely.
  • And of course, if Washington is still considering a free-trade agreement at the same time Colombia is debating a constitutional re-election amendment, Uribe’s ambitions would only foster doubts about Colombia’s democratic credentials, working to the advantage of the agreement’s opponents here.

This scenario is still hypothetical – but the “U” Party certainly set it in motion last week. Let’s see where it goes.

15 Responses to “A third term for Uribe?”

  1. boz Says:

    Uribe came out about a month ago and said he will not run for a third term and that parties should start looking for his successor. There is some concern that he will try to control power from behind the scenes of the next president. However, I think he’s figured out for all the reasons you just mentioned and more that a third term would be a bad idea.

  2. Prometeo Mapiripan Says:

    One can find more about the origine and future of the authoritarian strategies of Uribe in the link: under the title !Heil Uribe!

  3. Carlos Raúl van der Weyden Velásquez Says:

    Boz, Uribe told the same thing to CNN en Español’s Patricia Janiot in 2002 about a then second term.

    The so-called Party of the U needs, literally, a third term for Uribe. Remember Uribe is their “raison d’être”. The “U” is not for “National Unity”, of course.

  4. jcg Says:

    boz: That doesn’t mean he won’t change that opinion, but it does make it harder to contemplate justify, in light of other elements (see below).

    Carlos Raúl van der Weyden Velásquez:

    Except that even his previous 2002/2006 campaign manager, his family and some of his political allies have said the same thing now (the Conservatives, some people in the “Party of the U” and possibly Cambio Radical as well). It’s not just or even mainly Uribe who has opposed a new reelection.

    The circumstances, both political and otherwise, are not identical so the outcome doesn’t necessarily have to be the same. Assuming so is premature at this point, IMHO.

    Prometeo Mapiripan: Thanks but no thanks. Godwin’s law discourages me from it.

  5. jcg Says:

    I meant to type; “That doesn’t mean he won’t change that opinion, but it does make it harder to contemplate or justify, in light of other elements (see below).”

  6. Felipe Toro Says:

    I don’t think that Uribe running for a third term will do any damage to the Colombian democracy, on the coning Uribe reelected will prove that there is democracy in colombia, because if he is reelected it is because the people want it to be that way. Not only does the poor class, midle class want him, but also the upper class which means that he is a good president. Of all the presidents that Colombia has had in the past years the only one that has really done something for the Country is Uribe. Who else went of of the Narino House into the poor towns of Colombia to see what are the people needs and concerns? Having Uribe run for a third term will mean that all the hard work it’s government is doing will be finished not left in the middle by another government with different interest’s, which may not be what the country wants. If he’s such a bad president as some say, why is his popularity between 60-70% ??? a reason of why some politicians don’t like Uribe it’s because in politics there is a lot of corruption and much of the money is going into the politicians pockets, but in Uribe’s government those things have become harder to do. In other governments there use to be many scandals about politicians stealing money, in Uribe’s case there isn’t, and that’s why people try to vinculate him to paras. Also, In Colombia you could be friends with your neighbor, go to his party’s and never know that he may be in ilegal business.

  7. Jorge Patiño Says:

    One of the biggest problems of Uribe’s era is not only Uribe himself, but his supporters. Sometimes they can be even more hardlined than the president (something which, obviuosly, he does nothing to moderate). Right now Colombia is seeing everything in black and white, forgetting that this country has a wide range of grays. The “either you are with me or against me” line is real and some of us are trapped in the middle because the uribistas say we’re a bunch of terrorists while the opposers of Uribe say we’re right wing fascists. Nice…

  8. Kyle Says:

    I have to say right now that I agree with jcg, and then take it a step farther. What remains unclear is what Uribe will do. I highly doubt he has made a solid decision. He is probably debating it in his head while we discuss here online now. The party is showing that they are ready to take the step to try to get Uribe a third term; whether Uribe will take it remains to be seen, as he is probably mulling it over (amongst a whole plethora of other issues) in his head now. Sadly, he hasn’t lashed out and screamed at and threatened his party yet, but with how he has been running lately, who knows?

  9. Kyle Says:

    Ok, so the threatening wouldn’t be good, but you know what I mean.

  10. Emilio Zolá Says:
    Links above mentioned are FACTS, no allegations. Alvaro Uribe, for some non-sanctus reason, got blessings as Colombian President from the DEA and the State Department, in spite they had first hand information the strong involvement of Uribe inside the Pablo Escobar narco machinery. The DEA included his name ( #82) in the above mentioned link because from the “Aeronautica Civil”, Uribe was a key individual in the “achievements” of Pablo Escobar and his partners.

  11. Emilio Zolá Says:

    Why Uribe , in spite of his dirty record, was the choice of the State Department? I’m for sure this strange choice gets one name: Hugo Chavez. Alvaro Uribe is necessary for the United States because he would be an important piece in case of an American invasion to Venezuela. Period.

  12. Jonas Says:

    Well, its a very concise article, portraying a concise biased analysis. My only critique is that the author should perhaps explain to the readers that Mr.Uribe has said to his party that he’s not running for a third term, and in fact they should start looking for his successor. I think this article is just what everyone that doesn’ agree with Uribe, and perhaps hasn’t lived in Colombia for much would like to see happening.

  13. Kyle Says:

    “Though he hinted in September that he might not seek re-election in 2010, Uribe has been curiously silent about the “U” Party’s latest move.” Perhaps Jonas, you should read the whole thing carefully. I haven’t lived in Colombia but I’ve spent enough time in places to see that Uribe’s policies haven’t helped in many areas and have helped in some.

    For example, many people have described to me what north-eastern (mongui, paz del rio, etc) Boyaca was like pre-Uribe, and I’ve read about it and understand the situation previously and how bad it was. I’ve been to those places now and can see the complete tranquility. I have to agree with many people in the area that Uribe’s policies have strongly helped this area security wise.
    But I’ve also been to places like Putumayo and Arauca and seen that Uribe’s policies have been severely flawed, haven’t worked or have made things worse. For example, there are night buses in Putumayo now (I’ve taken one) but it is still is teh most violent department in the country and there has been very little change since Uribe took office.
    Jorge is correct when he notes that Colombia is a country full of gray areas. Uribe heavily falls into gray areas on most everything he does.

    Lastly, this article is about mainly how Washington will see Uribe’s third term, not necessarily even about Uribe’s policies. If you look at the points laid out, all of them but one (about Colombia’s other political elite) pertain to Washinton or the US’s stance towards Uribe. So the success or failure or pro or cons of Uribe’s policies is a debate that is not too pertinent. (So why did I write the previous?)

  14. jcg Says:

    Kyle: Pretty much, I would agree.

    Emilio Zolá: You’re not giving us any new information, since those links have been discussed both in and outside this blog. Though that’s probably one of the most colorful ways of presenting and interpreting it, “Emilio Zola”.

    An American invasion of Venezuela? Very unlikely so far, IMHO, and I really don’t think one can make such speculations without inside information that, unfortunately, almost nobody here has. But to each his or her own.

  15. jcg Says:

    jcg: I had no idea you had already discussed the links that I wrote. However, as a former counselor of some Federal Agencies dedicated to combat the drugs, I can tell you that Colombians never paid attention to the fact that they had elected a top collaborator of the drugdealer Pablo Escobar. Without the Uribe’s help from the Aeronautica Civil (the FAA in Colombia) , never the unfamous Medellin Cartel could be so succesful and powerful. More over. Alvaro Ursibe Velez was fired as Medellin Mayor because his scandalous relationship with the members of such Cartel. This is not an allegation. It’s a fact.

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