Alvaro Uribe & Colombia's Transformation

Alvaro Uribe held the presidency in Colombia from the 7th of August, 2002 until August of 2010. The impact he had on the nation is significant and for Lina and myself, has enabled us to move to live here since June, 2010 and have our first baby at a local hospital in Medellin. This would have been possible previously, but the fact that we feel comfortable doing so now, is an important development.

Uribe is a cultured man who studied both at Harvard and Oxford universities after first studying law at the University of Antioquia in Medellin where he is from.

There have as always been detractors of his policies and he was viewed as right-wing favoring the upper classes in his efforts to improve the economy, infrastructure and safety including a hard hand against the FARC during his two terms.

Before and After Uribe

When thinking about Colombia, from my perspective, there is a before and after - Uribe managed to weaken the FARC and improve the economy so significantly, that I honestly think we have picked up a momentum that will not reverse. That said, the longer Lina and I spend here, the more apparent are the enormous social inequalities and deeply ingrained corruption that seems to reach into a wide range of areas.

Military Force

Using military force, Uribe contained the FARC, ELN & AUC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, National Liberation Army & United Self-Defense forces of Colombia). He believed in the use of force and frankly, I agree that this was necessary in these cases.

Operation Jaques

Alvaro Uribe is perhaps best known for the successful rescue mission “Operation Jaque” where special forces penetrated a paramilitary camp where several hostages were held, including the former presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt.

Second Term - Change in the Constitution

One notable event during his two-term presidency is that he actually managed to attain approval for an amendment to the constitution of Colombia in order to run for a second term and won a landslide victory. A risky move perhaps, but considering the outcome, a worthy one.

Allegations and Scandals

There were a number of allegations against the president as well as also scandals related to alleged connections to the infamous Pablo Escobar and also for members of his congress having ties to the paramilitaries of which some were charged. Lina saw no better alternative to Uribe and nor did I. The president was known for tirelessly spending every weekend visiting towns and villages all over Colombia in order to help with local government affairs. Perhaps he was micro-managing and implemented the use of control where he could but this was absolutely necessary.

Transformational Impact

He also advocated planting food in and around ones own homes – something like a Victory Garden in Britain during World War II – pragmatic to the extreme.

Alvaro Uribe has transformed Colombia and should be remembered for doing so. He had great integrity but also enormous determination and strength that produced tangible results than be seen and felt on many levels.

It may be mentioned that his father was killed by the FARC in 1983 and this is pure speculation, but I'm guessing that this fueled his commitment to decreasing their numbers and stranglehold on the country.

There is such an extreme in class differences in Colombia, and Uribe represents wealth and old money, that there is always a tension with respect to these themes – did he use the media to his advantage through connections, did he prioritize the “ruling class”, was he too heavy handed in his use of military force? The answers become blurred as with much history in Colombia and yes, the victors write it but at the end of the day, you have to make a choice don't you?

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