President Uribe gets the Medal of Freedom “The enemy of my enemy”
Jan 142009

El Tiempo asked me yesterday to briefly discuss the political implications of President Bush awarding Colombian President Álvaro Uribe the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The focus of this piece, as a result, is different from the joint NGO statement we signed on to yesterday – more of a “news analysis” than a protest.

Here is the English. The Spanish is on El Tiempo’s website. My byline doesn’t appear (a blessing, perhaps), but it’s me.

Analysis: The Medal of Freedom’s Risks

President Uribe has little to gain or lose by accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Washington Tuesday. The negative and the positive nearly cancel each other out, leaving his ability to pursue his agenda in the United States little changed.

There are clear political risks, though. For many of the now-ruling Democrats, President Bush’s decision to give Uribe the United States’ highest civilian honor reignites the past two years’ bitter debates over the Free Trade Agreement and the future of U.S. assistance. These debates raised the profile of Colombia’s continuing human rights scandals, para-politics, and President Uribe’s own repeated attacks on human rights defenders, the media and the judiciary. For many, then, the spectacle of President Bush appearing to ignore these concerns will increase their desire to remake his Colombia policy.

Another, equally serious, risk is that the medal increases the perception that Uribe is partisan. Uribe, who met with both John McCain and Sarah Palin, already has to confront a perception that Obama was not his candidate. Now, he will be visiting Bush in his final days to receive the same award to the CIA Director and the civilian and military leaders of the Iraq invasion, which generated an enormous outcry in December 2004.

President Uribe has not done enough to dispel the notion that he is in Washington to offer a final valedictory to George Bush. His public message to the next administration appears to be one of nostalgia for the Bush years, instead of a desire to work constructively with the incoming team.

On the other hand, it’s not all risk for President Uribe. Despite recent politicization, the Medal of Freedom remains prestigious. He is receiving an award that only thirteen other foreign leaders have received in the past sixty years. Foreign Medal of Freedom awardees are an elite group that includes Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. Among the majority of U.S. policymakers who pay little attention to Colombia, the medal confers a strong measure of legitimacy: “He has a Medal of Freedom. His critics must be exaggerating.”

Uribe, then, will return to Colombia with a shade more prestige, but also with stronger questions about human rights and a greater perception that he is tied to a deeply unpopular U.S. president and his out-of-power party. The Medal of Freedom’s net effect is likely to be minimal.

32 Responses to “The Medal of Freedom’s risks”

  1. maremoto Says:


    “Barbarian Camilla says:

    Sorry, those “accomplishments” don’t measure up to the real ones of President Uribe and his mighty Colombian army

    mighty Colombian Army…Orwellian…


    So the frenchmen who praised the achievements of the French Resistance were just sick barbarians, because the resistance did morally reprochable things and never respected German lives, huh? Well, by playing by your standards, of course.

    You might have liked living in Somalia 2.0 back in 2000, we Colombians on the other hand , did not and made sure to free ourselves from terror.

    And what is your problem with the drug battle in Afghanistan? If there is no fight against drugs over there, the Taliban eventually WILL grow stronger. That is a no brainer.

    Go take your simplistic, absurd rethoric somewhere else.

    maremoto Says:
    January 14th, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    get over yourself barbarian

    you created the black market that destroyed Colombia and my family… you go back to that rock under which you people crawled out of

    that’s what most people don’t know…that el “narcotrafico” (absurd) can disappear overnight by the people in the US Congress along with all those juicy profits for you and your ilk when they invented “money laundering” with the bank secrecy act ..

    you are not fooling all the people all the time gutter rat

    know your place scum

  2. maremoto Says:


  3. maremoto Says:

    wisdom.. although I’m sure this is way over your head

    Abraham Lincoln, one of the most well respected US presidents in history, once gave an evaluation of the effectiveness of prohibition: “Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.” (Quotationsbook)

  4. maremoto Says:


  5. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Good to see you around maremoto; you add some pepper to the silly posts by users, including myself.

  6. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Howcome the “EL TIEMPO” publishes Adam’s article without giving proper credits , and not even mentioning that an anonymous third party authored the column? Is this honest? Adam should complain about this, unless he himself asked not to be identifyed (a blessing, perhaps).

  7. maremoto Says:

    not a problem Jaime… I believe my opinion, as frankly brutal as it is, is necessary so these barbarians know that they might be getting away with their criminal enterprise but only because the majority of people in the US don’t know the death and destruction the “war” on drugs has fueled

    but guess what 75% of the American people want an end to the “war on drugs”… if this is a democracy time is on my side…but in the meantime they need to be criticized and exposed for the frauds and criminals that they are

    aptly named: barbarians (southern accent included)

  8. Kyle Says:

    So maremoto, your opinions are directed at Americans? What about Americans who are against the war on drugs and other policies you mentioned? Are they barbarians? I’m just trying to get an idea of who exactly you are damningly pointing the finger at…

  9. maremoto Says:

    the people pushing the war on drugs

    75 % of Americans, myself included,. want this farce to come to a stop…

    there is no justification possible for all the evils created by black markets because somebody wants to use a substance that somebody else disapproves of…none whatsoever, not on a constitutional or civil rights or moral aspects (to say nothing of federal theft, eh I mean forfeiture, laws)

    and what’s more, i’ve never met an American that when faced with the full picture of the perversity of this tumor on America exported to the rest of the world that didn’t come to the same conclusion that that city council in El Paso came to, the same that is spelled out in “No Country for Old Men” by the most excellent Coen brother filmmakers , or Traffic before that…or any number of other well done and well intentioned documentaries… didn’t you read the quote by Abe Lincoln I posted above?

    no sir, I am not anti-American, just against certain groups of Americans that push these crazy abstract wars for their own selfish purposes

    I mean seriously, Sir, why ? why create this madness..if you read this site you know what the war on drugs has done to Colombia…why don’t you care about that? there are plenty of innocent people in Colombia whose lives the doctrine you push has hurt… don’t you know that? or don’t you care? and Colombia is just the tip of the iceberg as to the security threats that breed in YOUR BLACK MARKET… for all kinds of human beings and their Nation’s present and future… insane that this has been allowed…what a dearth of leadership in Latin America…

    let’s see what Mr. Lula makes of your drug war…oh I know local “law enforcement” gets a cut in all nations that play along as well as a way to fund more state control and …wow..more powerful politicians, exactly what mankind needs…it is widespread…the cancer is

    human beings, remember? then again you probably the type that supported the Iraq war too… the best example of a rogue state in action…with extenuating circumstances for the American people who were duped by the new barbarians…who in my view are intent on destroying the world..or at least raping it


    your foreign policy brings danger, violence, organized crime, corruption of the Nation’s institutions and civil society’s hopes for a better future…. don’t you get it????

    why should anybody like you???

  10. maremoto Says:

    please let me know if you would like a little bit more reality brought to you about your drug war and I’ll gladly post some evidence

  11. maremoto Says:

    here you kyle

    this is what I mean:

    There has been a new response posted to the following discussion on
    Idea for Change in America: End the war on drugs



    posted by Timothy J Lamber

    A couple of years ago, I overheard something in a restaurant. A man who seemed to be in his twenties or thirties was there with a boy who was probably seven or eight. The kid was a typical happy kid, goofing around between french fries. The man was talking about visiting a friend in jail. Then he says to the kid: “You want to visit your friends when they’re locked up ’cause you gonna want them to visit you when you locked up.”

    Some of the people I told about that reacted ‘What an asshole. Talk about low expectations!’ But I keep hearing that a black male child around the age of 5 stands a one in three chance of spending some part of his life locked up.

    It was more than 5 years ago, but I’ll never forget that. It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard.

    It’s the War On Drugs that’s creating the opportunity for people to get involved in dealing. Ending the War On Drugs WILL SAVE LIVES. Have you heard what’s been going on in Mexico? Do you care? How about America? We cannot afford this madness, we never could.

  12. Kyle Says:

    Wow maremoto, you do not know my opinions (clearly) and yet feel OK to seemingly attack me. In some cases I don’t know if you are directly addressing me, though later posts seem to indicate yes. Yet, you have no idea what my position is with regards to the war on drugs. There is no debate over that. You literally have no idea. If you did, you probably would ask if I had read the quote from Lincoln above, you wouldn’t be so aggressive and demeaning, you wouldn’t say “you kyle” and then post an opinion piece from some guy discounting completely the war on drugs. Be a little more discriminate, or at least inquire about someone’s opinion. I am not even going to address what you’ve written. All I ask is that you be much more careful before you go on ranting and borderline insulting people. Lastly, Why would you ask if I care or had any idea what the War on Drugs has done to Colombia when I comment and read this blog?

  13. maremoto Says:


    absolutely right

    I apologize :)

  14. Kyle Says:

    It’s alright maremoto. I must say, you are probably the most passionate person on the blog, which I do like.

  15. lfm Says:

    OK, so the whole episode of Uribe and his PMoF medal is almost over. As usual, Adam made a good analysis of it but I now guess that we´ve all been making a tempest in a teapot and really overanalyzing this. I mean, from Uribe´s point of view I´m sure he´s actually proud of the PMoF, I doubt he lobbied for it in any shape, manner or form (if he did, that´d be a juicy tidbit). So, what was he to do? He´s one day sitting in his office, minding his own business (just not to digress I won´t say how) and then he gets the thrilling phone call. Does he say “thanks, but no, thanks” to the President of the U S of A, the Supreme-Court Appointed “leader of the free world”, his old-time buddy, George “I´m kin´a disappointed I destroyed a whole country for no good reason” Bush? Of course not! I doubt there was any room for strategic decision-making here.

  16. Kyle Says:

    Good call LFM

  17. maremoto Says:

    Thanks Kyle

    Makes me happy that somebody at least is frank about this stuff

    On the other hand my passion comes at a price to by soul, my loved ones and my life

    What the heck, I’ll admit it, I love exposing these hypocrites and agitating for if not jailing them for distorting our existence then calling them names ;)

  18. maremoto Says:

    Jon Stewart rocks !

  19. Camilla Says:

    OT, but it’s very weird – Hannity has taken up the anti-AUC banner, blasting Holder’s defense of Chiquita. I doubt he knows who any of these people are, but he’ll reliably say anything to take down Holder and make Obama unhappy:,2933,480072,00.html

  20. maremoto Says:

    Camilla are you okay? you are actually disowning Sean “little ball o’ hate” Hannity?

    could it really be, oh Camilla?

    lol no way

  21. maremoto Says:

    selected passages…

    Mike G.
    1/12/2009 8:27 PM
    The war on drugs only creates more crime and criminalizes non violent people. Addiction should be treated as a disease as not a law enforcement issue. Treating the problem effectively and helping people get through their addictions is a much better way to get them to confront their problems rather than treating them like some low-life form of society that has no hope.

    “Change” and “Hope” is what we heard from our President as we elected him and we the people demand that you help give addicts hope to get their lives back on track.

    Robbie Alford
    1/12/2009 4:30 PM
    I’m behind marijuana legalization 100%. I’ll be honest.. I like smoking pot for recreation. HOWEVER, let’s also mention the overcrowded prisons where rapists get paroled in order to make room for any unfortunate guy who sells a pound a weed.. to me that’s a crime.

    1/12/2009 3:17 PM
    Responsible consumption of marijuana within an appropriate setting is a personal choice, and thus should not be deemed a criminal act. However, regulation of marijuana is important, just as regulation of alcohol is important (age restrictions, restrictions on vehicle operation while intoxicated, etc).

    The dangers to society that marijuana use presents come only from the laws against it. Many individuals are jailed as pot-smokers, and are released as criminals as a result of that imprisonment. They are unable to find decent employment because of a criminal record, etc. Our law enforcement agencies have far more important issues to spend their resources on. In addition, we can gain so much economically and environmentally from the use of non-THC industrial hemp that it is ridiculous for us to be so afraid of its propagation.

    The illegality of marijuana is a closed-minded, myopic remnant of the way we governed ourselves in the past, with fear and prejudice. Now that we have finally elected an open-minded administration, it is time we move forward in all areas of our society, including irresponsible criminalization of a plant.

    1/12/2009 2:39 PM
    The government should only ask itself one question… “Is it safe?” They should invest in a public study on its effects and make the results of that study accessible to all. My belief is that the results will be overwhelmingly supportive in showing that marijuana is a safe recreational substance.

    If it is found that marijuana significantly endangers the lives of its users or the lives of people around them, then the prohibition should rightfully continue.

    If, however, it is found to be safe… then there is no legal basis for continuing to make it illegal.

    Let the scientific research begin!

    1/12/2009 11:32 AM
    Ending Marijuana Prohibition will end the increasing number of marijuana gardens planted by illeagal aliens with mafia style guards throughout the west. This dangerous problem hit home with myself when on a “nature tour ” with small children and their parents on my own property, we accidentatly stumbled upon several acres of marijuana.
    After calling in the police, there was found to be burried amunition, that we had actually interupted the dinner of the hidden illegal gardeners, there was approximately four months of garbage, human bio-waste(!) and tissues, thousands of feet of tubing, and the small special force of narcotic agents filled an enormous truck with marijuana with a street value of $15 million dollars. Our lives were threatened and the sense of peace and security on our own land was forever changed. If Marijuana was legal these people who cross the border and use our personal property and national parks for their pot gardens would not be able to sell their goods and would at least on this issue go back to where ever they came from.
    We raise purebred horses on this land and we are still cleaning up the mess from these people.

  22. maremoto Says:

    In case anybody missed this from Politico’s blog

    Comment by Russ Belville — January 13, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

    The El Paso City Council votes tonight on whether to overturn the mayor’s veto on their unanimous recommendation that El Paso ask its federal representatives to just begin the discussion about drug prohibition and whether we need to re-think our strategies in the War On (Certain American Citizens Using Non-Pharmaceutical, Non-Alcoholic, Tobacco-Free) Drugs in light of failing economies and Mexican drug cartel violence.

    Imagine – the city that started marijuana prohibition 94 years ago might be the first city to help end it!

    The Attorney General of Arizona, dismayed by the Mexican drug cartel violence, voices an opinion that we ought to just legalize marijuana, as that would take 70% of the cartel’s profit – but then backs away because there are “still hurdles to clear” regarding legalization.

    Glenn Greenwald in Salon was reporting on the Israeli offensive into Gaza. He notes that Democratic voters oppose and Republican voters support the offensive, but on the whole, the people are evenly divided on the issue. Greenwald asked if there is any other issue where the public is evenly divided, yet the politicians on both sides of the aisle are in complete lockstep agreement?

    Legalizing marijuana would be that issue. The most recent Zogby polls have shown a 49%-48% plurality in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana like Jagermeister or Bacardi 151, and polls over this decade have consistently shown support for medical uses of marijuana at between 70%-80%. Yet our politicians march in 100% lockstep toward supporting the continuation of harassment, arrest, and incarceration of marijuana users and seizure of their property.

    Wake up, Washington! The People by a >70% margin believe the War on Drugs is a failure. Your failure to heed the will of The People tells us you have ulterior motives in maintaining prohibition.

  23. Kyle Says:

    Sanho Tree (forgive me for name-dropping) once commented to me and the others we were with that many Congresspeople vote for anti-drug (or pro-War on Drugs) measures mainly because they do not want to appear soft on drugs (at least in their minds) because they fear that they will be torn apart by their constituencies and then lose their seat, seemingly equating it with political suicide. I would argue that most Congresspeople have a very face-value level of knowledge with regards to Colombia, and so they may not have ulterior motives but may just think its best for their careers (and some may think best for the country due to ignorance) to vote for what they see as international anti-drug measures.

  24. El Común Says:

    How to Win the War on Drugs (Illegal Immigration)

    1. Reduce U.S. demand for drugs (foreign workers): We could start by increasing emphasis on drug treatment and education as well as enforcing drug laws among both rich and poor…instead of just the poor (enforcing laws against hiring undocumented workers, prosecuting businesses who hire them instead of rounding up undocumented workers and their families in “detention centers”). Politicians, wanting to look “tough”, prefer to appeal to our worst instincts by emphasizing drug interdiction (border fences) and blaming the drug (immigration) problem on “aliens” rather than on our own people’s insatiable appetite for drugs (cheap labor).

    2. Improve the living conditions of impoverished coca farmers (jobless peasants who would otherwise immigrate).

    3. Decriminalize drugs (guest worker program). George Shultz gets it (so does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce).

  25. Camilla Says:

    Not all, maremoto. I’m just watching, fascinated.

  26. maremoto Says:

    I’m watching too Camilla…. in repugnance….

    There has been a new response posted to the following discussion on
    Biden, drug warrior

    Former New Mexico Republican Governor, Gary Johnson, for Drug Czar
    Our Citizen Governor, Gary Johnson is a GENUINE “maverick” unlike the ersatz one that the Republicans put up for VP in 2008. I remember the day he came out for the legalization of marijuana. I read it in a one paragraph news-bite on an inside page of the Santa Fe New Mexican. The Republican Party came down on him like a “ton of bricks”. The Dems vied to outdo one another righteous, anti-drug/crime posturing. The Governor fell silent, for some weeks.
    Then he held a press conference and said that he had studied the issue and concluded that all “drugs” should be legalized, regulated, and taxed. He spend the balance of his second and final term as Governor arguing the case cogently and convincingly. The Drug Policy Alliance held their annual Conference in Albuquerque in 2001, and the Governor gave the Welcome Address. I’ve never been happier to be living in New Mexico.

    Gary Johnson has the savy and integrity to end the costly, failed “War on Drugs” and create a system of regulation that will begin to gain control of the untenable situation that Prohibition has created; instead of the enormous cost in public dollars and broken lives, we can generate income for the depleted public purse.

    End Prohibition (again). Gary Johnson for “Drug Czar”!

    posted by Victoria Scott

  27. Chris Says:

    This was on El Tiempo…

  28. maremoto Says:

    America, America

    God shed his grace on thee

    Camilla, this is your land but it’s also my land…lol

    don’t think I am unaware of the poverty in the deep South that gave birth to your War on Drugs scam

  29. El Común Says:

    Interesting article Chris. According to the UNDP, only Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Bolivia have a higher Gini (inequality) index than Colombia.

  30. Chris Says:

  31. maremoto Says:

  32. maremoto Says:

    Mexico: In an interview with Mexico’s El Universal daily, DOD official Richard Douglas stated that the use of the US military to combat drug trafficking is “advisable.” Douglas indicated that at the request of the US border states, the US National Guard would be used to protect the border from Mexican organized crime.

    Mexico: The US Department of Treasury disclosed on 18 January that at least USD17.2 billion have been laundered through Mexico in the past two years. Bulk cash transfers are frequent along the US’ southwestern border. And between Mexico and Colombia, between USD18 and 39 billion are laundered annually.

    Mexico: According to Jose A. Ortega, the president of Mexico’s Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Penal Justice, over 5,500 people died in Mexico in 2008 due to criminal violence. This figure is 20% higher than the total number of US military deaths in Iraq since the start of the war in May, 2003. Ortega has also reported that there were 1,028 kidnappings in Mexico in 2008, and some 65 of those victims were killed. Additionally, some 205 murders have been registered for 2009. That’s nearly twice the number of murders registered over the same time period in 2008.

    Mexico: Mexico’s military push into the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, called Operation
    Northeast, has been reinforced with 300 soldiers, sent to the city of Reynosa.

    Mexico: Two top officials with Interpol in Mexico, Rodolfo de la Guardia Garcia and Ricardo Gutierrez Vargas have been sent to a federal prison in Nayarit. They were found guilty of collaboration with organized crime by furnishing strategic information in exchange for monthly cash payments.


    all of those good people who look away in the US Congress need a good dose of reality

    stop this madness

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