Sunday, July 15, 2007

Mr. Uribe comes up with a brilliant idea: make friends with paramilitaries, and when they kill legislators, rally the country

Update: October 3, 2007
The former mistress of the late cocaine trafficker Pablo Escobar has come out with a book that alleges that President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, when he was head of civil aviation, helped Escobar secure licenses for landing strips used for cocaine trafficking.

You don't think this guy actually created a problem so he could solve it and become a hero?

The story below is from "A hero at home, a villain abroad"
Jul 12th 2007 The Economist

Colombians reckon that Álvaro Uribe saved their country. It's a pity for them that so many outsiders don't see their president that way.

WHEN hundreds of thousands of Colombians poured into the streets on July 5th to protest at the killing of 11 hostages who had been held by the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), President Álvaro Uribe chose to read this as support for his tough security policies. “This demonstration is notice to the international community that we cannot, in this hour of pain, give in to the criminals,” he said. But much of the “international community” no longer sees events in Colombia in the way most Colombians do.

At home Mr Uribe is seen as the saviour of a country that was in danger of being turned into a failed state by the rampaging violence of drug-traffickers, left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries. Since he took office in 2002, violence has fallen sharply. As confidence returns, the economy is growing at 8% a year. According to Invamer-Gallup, a pollster, Mr Uribe's approval rating has remained steady at between 70% and 80% over the past year.

That is despite recent scandals in which a dozen legislators who support him, as well as a former intelligence chief, have been arrested on suspicion of having ties to the murderous paramilitaries; the latest to face investigation is Mario Uribe, a senator and the president's cousin. In the United States and Europe, on the other hand, Mr Uribe's reputation has suffered—so much so that in April Al Gore, America's former vice-president, refused to appear at the same conference as Mr Uribe in Miami.

Reactions to the killing of the hostages highlighted the widening gulf between the perceptions of Colombians and those of the outside world. The hostages were regional legislators who had been held by the FARC for five years. According to the guerrillas they died when an “unidentified military group” attacked the jungle camp where they were being held. Mr Uribe said that there were no government operations on the day in question in the area where officials believe the hostages were held.

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