Álvaro Uribe Vélez
Who is he: Álvaro Uribe Vélez was the 58th President of Colombia and served from 2002 to 2010. Uribe began his political career in his home district of Antioquia, where he held several positions including mayor Medellin in 1982. Before becoming president Uribe was also a senator from 1986 to 1994 and served as governor of Antioquia between 1995 and 1997.
As president of Colombia, Uribe's administration employed an inclusive governmental approach. The president and others in his administration traveled around the country to set up local councils that enabled citizens to have influence in federal government decision making as well as a strong voice in local politics. Alvaro Uribe's two terms were also marked by increasing confrontation with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerilla movement.
On July 2, 2008, the Colombian military conducted Operation Jaque (Operacion Jaque) to free a group of hostages held by FARC, including former Green Party candidate for president Ingrid Betancourt, 11 members of the Colombian military and police and three US military contractors employed by Northrop Grumman. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and his defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, agreed to the strategy of Operation Jaque, developed by General Freddy Padilla de Leon. With the operation a resounding success, President Uribe's popular support soared from 73 to 91 percent of a population weary of years of violence wrought by FARC.
Ultimately, Uribe will be known for his military victories over FARC and his strong partnership with the Bush administration regarding the "war on drugs." Both are seen as having widely reduced violence in Colombia and restoring security even to outlying provinces.
Background: Álvaro Uribe Vélez was born in Medellin on the 4th of July 1952, the eldest of five children, to Alberto Uribe Sierra, a successful businessman. Uribe graduated high school in 1970 from Jorge Robledo Institute and studied law, as an honor student, at the University of Antioquia, graduating in 1977. In 1993 he took a course at Harvard University Extension School; he was awarded a Simón Bolivar Scholarship by the British Chevening Scholarships program to study at Oxford University's St. Antony's College in England in 1998 and 1999.
Álvaro Uribe became a member of the Colombian Liberal Party and later served on the Medellín city council. In 1976, Uribe became Chief of Assets for the Public Enterprises of Medellín. Uribe then became Mayor of Medellín in 1982.
In 1983, Álvaro Uribe's father was killed by the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a botched kidnapping attempt, undoubtedly strengthening Uribe's determination to eradicate Colombia of FARC and narco-traffickers in general during his political career.
Álvaro Uribe was Director of Civil Aviation under President Julio Turbay from 1980 to 1982 and left to serve for five months as Mayor of Medellin in 1982. Uribe was elected an Antioquia senator from 1986 to 1990 and reelected to a second term from 1990 to 1994. Uribe received several honors as best senator and for best legislative initiative. Uribe became Governor of the Department of Antioquia from 1995 to 1997 and continued with his legislative innovations by attempting to generate a communitarian state, calling for citizen decision-making. Uribe worked to reduce bureaucracy and to provide more protection for citizens. Kidnapping fell considerably during his term as governor.
Governor Uribe pursued other security approaches, including the use of private security forces, a stance Uribe would later endorse when he ran for president. His platform, in fact, mainly emphasized an aggressive approach towards FARC and other illicit drug-trafficking paramilitary groups. Uribe also emphasized slashing expenses and opposing corruption. At the time, FARC was at a high point, controlling perhaps 10 percent of Colombia, and four years of peace talks by the previous president had failed to bring about peace. This caused a shift in voter sentiment toward Uribe, who began to be seen as the candidate with the answers. Uribe was initially elected President of Colombia, as an independent, in 2002 with 53% of the vote and then re-elected in 2006 with 63% of the vote.
During his two terms as president the Colombian economy was greatly enhanced by this decrease in terrorism and drug trafficking, brought about through Uribe's policy of "democratic security." FARC forces were greatly reduced, kidnappings and homicides were reduced by nearly half, roads previously closed due to violence were reopened and military or police forces were re-established in every municipality. Through organizing weekly communitarian councils in every district of Colombia Uribe increased citizen participation in government. As his presidency ended, Uribe's popularity among citizens has been reported as between 79 percent and 84 percent.
Álvaro Uribe is married to Lina María Moreno Mejía and is the father of two sons, Tomás Uribe and Jerónimo Uribe.
News & Analysis
|10/31/12||THE PRAGMATIST: Will FARC/Colombia Meetings in Oslo Prove Former President Uribe Correct?|
|09/11/12||THE PRAGMATIST: Uribe's Policy Difficulties With Santos Are of the Most Significant and Serious Kind|
|09/25/12||Colombia: Opportunities Abound in This Unique Country|