News & Analysis
THE PRAGMATIST: No, Reuters ... Uribe's Perspective on Santos and FARC Is Policy Driven
In an interview this week at his country residence, Uribe insisted he is not an "enemy of peace" and wants an end to a decades-old war but only if rebels first lay down their weapons, cease all criminal activity and are punished for their crimes. "We all want peace, but there can't be a negotiation while the terrorists are continuing their criminal activities," said Uribe, whose father was killed in a botched kidnapping by the FARC in 1983. "It creates investor panic and in turn creates difficulties in financing social policy." Uribe led Colombia from 2002 until 2010 and is credited with weakening the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla army, or FARC, and attracting record levels of foreign investment, especially in the mining and oil industries. Santos served as Uribe's defense minister and the two were close allies. But the former president has since turned against his successor, accusing him of being soft on the FARC and now agreeing to peace talks from a position of weakness. – Reuters
Dominant Social Theme: Uribe's perspectives are personal.
Free-Market Analysis: Reuters tells us that "former president Alvaro Uribe has turned against his hand-picked successor Juan Manuel Santos."
But the article, excerpted above, once again casts Uribe's criticisms in a personal light. As we have pointed out previously, Uribe's perspective is a philosophical one and has to do with state recognition of power and how to achieve an end to ongoing FARC violence.
Here's some more from the article:
"The president has allowed security to weaken and spent the last two years (negotiating) under the table, behind the back of the nation, while security has declined and the military is demotivated," Uribe told Reuters in his study overlooking a garden lake at his residence near the city of Medellin.
Santos announced last week that talks with the FARC will start in Norway next month and then move to Cuba, where the two sides will try to end a conflict that has killed tens of thousands since it began some 50 years ago.
Uribe, 60, constantly criticizes government policy on his Twitter feed and, since pulling out of the ruling Partido de la U in July, he has become Colombia's de facto opposition leader. Although he cannot run again for president, he is expected to back a political ally for the next election in 2014.
In the meantime, he is brutally dismissive of Santos. "He is dedicated to seeking talks with terrorists and comes to the table weak and the terrorists feeling like champions," Uribe said in the interview at his home on Monday.
The article goes on to highlight the differences between the two men with the subtitle, "Old Enemies." And it notes that Uribe is "furious that his old nemesis, Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez, has been given a role in supporting the peace talks."
But again, these are policy issues. Uribe's perspective is that by allowing FARC leaders safe haven inside Venezuela, Chavez complicated Colombia's struggle for security.
The article also points out that Uribe is now accusing Chavez of offering to take FARC commander Ivan Marquez into custody and return him to Colombia for trial. This statement by Uribe is positioned by Reuters as irresponsible, as Marquez is a member of the FARC negotiating team for peace talks – and such statements could "strain relations."
Again, the positions of the various participants are presented within a personal context. "Uribe is crazy, Twitter has made him sick," Reuters quotes Venezuela's Information Minister Andres Izarra as saying.
Uribe's criticisms are evidently warranted, given his understandings with Santos. "He committed to completely the opposite," he said of Santos, according to Reuters. But again, Reuters positions Uribe's criticisms within the ambit of a personal vendetta:
"It's hard for Uribe to be an ex-president," said opposition lawmaker Alba Luz Pinilla. "He needs to stop criticizing now and let Santos' peace initiative develop so that possibly it will have a positive outcome."
The article implies as well that Uribe's position is intended to defend his allies from ongoing judicial attacks from the Santos administration. Uribe is especially worried about an "amnesty or pardon."
When he took office in 2002, the group had rebuilt its strength in a demilitarized zone to 20,000 fighters, according to Reuters. As a result, trade was down and foreign investment languished. At the time, investment was US$2 billion. Today it is $17 billion and FARC had been much reduced in size and power.
Uribe points out to Reuters, "We hadn't won but we were winning. It wasn't in vain." Again, we can see from this final point that Uribe's perspective is not personal but has to do with issues of security and investment.
The struggle was waged for policy reasons and Uribe is legitimately concerned that Santos's peace process will not bring peace but something else entirely.
A poll conducted by The Daily Bell in August-September 2012 found 46.5% of readers believe Colombia should "return to a more forceful approach that follows the path established by Uribe" and another 22.7% think that approach should be included along with negotiation. Twenty percent felt strongly enough about the increase in FARC violence they voted to amend the Colombian constitution to allow Uribe to run for a third term as president.
Whatever one thinks of Uribe's positions, it trivializes them to report on them from an entirely personal standpoint. They have to do with larger issues of national power and how political clout is amassed and wielded.
At the very largest level, what is taking place could generate regional civil unrest. If FARC declines to respect the peace process, Venezuela could become further entangled. Colombia could end up as party to a kind of regional civil war. These are high stakes.
Conclusion: Let's get the analysis correct.
Posted by SusanaM on 09/18/12 09:33 AM
Well, I think there's a lot to think about if you see that "peace agreement" from Santos and Farc, appears when the society have been criticized to our president Santos. It seems like if Santos tried to do something to increase his popularity because was really damaged at this point of his goverment.
The Farc's members (we can't forget that this people are killers, kidnappers, extortionists, etc) don't deserve an oportunity to be included in the our society, and worst, paying them to be part of a peacefull comunity... Why the goverment wants to do that? Why the Colombian resources will be destinated to pay them to live like a normal person in the city, with all the garanties that this represents for them?
Personaly, I think if this people come to live in the city like a normal person, we can't expect a lot of them, I belive that this people is going to make a lot of criminal acts, because they like that kind of life and they don't know another way to make money.
The president needs to have strong hand, is not that I like the war, I'm sick of all terrorism and sorry about the inocent people who died because of this, but if Santos can't be the strong president that we need, Uribe can be back as president and give us again the peace that he got with his strong hand work for eight years.
Posted by Danny B on 09/15/12 08:00 PM
I've been to Colombia a few times,,, once by road.
There is no real discussion about FARC that doesn't include drug money from bankers. Same is true in the case of the CIA. America is run by organized crime. Colombia is a nice cash cow. FARC would be nothing with arms from drug money.
Look at Peru. Fujimori and Monetsinos were able to rout out Sendero Luminoso fairly easily. Sendero Luminoso had no funding.
I spent time on the coast at Tumaco and I spoke with the military. I've seen all the barrels of herbicide out in the open at the airport. It isn't fenced or secure.
The CIA doesn't get a cut,,, your fields get sprayed.
This isn't about idealism,, it's about money.
Posted by laceja on 09/15/12 07:56 PM
If you are a freedom loving person, living in Colombia, you would take what Santos is doing to be totally personal. Imagine if you were an Arizonan and a murderous faction was kidnapping folks all over the state. To add insult to injury, the Governors of New Mexico and California are providing safe haven for the murders. Now, you elect a new Governor and he/she decides to start negotiating with the murders, who still hold thousands of kidnapped Arizonans... some of them your relatives. But, to make things worse, your new Governor has enlisted the services of the Governor of California to assist in the negotiations. You bet it's personal! Besides, negotiating with the terrorists only gives them legitimacy. That in itself is a total loser.
And, just to be clear, anyone who has any understanding of the Latin psyche would surely know and understand, everything is taken personal, and the very language is immersed in passion.
Posted by pauloportugal on 09/15/12 12:21 PM
Mr. Uribe knows exactly that negotiating with terrorists leads no where, the world saw that over and over again. Give them one finger, they will take the whole hand. Santos took the wrong way, Mr. Uribe knows that and is very upset with it. And mostly he is disappointed with his former ally.
Posted by Jaque on 09/15/12 09:40 AM
Great article again DB! You guys are nailing all of these misguided reports that position Uribe as some sort of disgruntled "former ruler." He only cares about what is in the best interests of Colombia. We here know that and are glad to see people like yourselves reporting on what is really transpiring.
Keep it up! The Colombian people are paying attention to what you guys are saying on this... most with big smiles on their faces!