Open Letter to Álvaro Uribe

Mr. Uribe, first and foremost I must respectfully express my gratitude for what you and your policies have done for my country of birth. Once on the verge of being deemed a “failed state,” Colombia is now a safer and more prosperous country.  Your Democratic Security initiative and other policies laid the groundwork for Colombian development in a variety of areas. Your two-term presidency saw many improvements for Colombia and its citizens. For this reason I am even more pained by your recent falling-out with current President Juan Manuel Santos.

President Santos is a member of your own political party, and even served as your Defense Minister from 2006 to 2009. During that time period the two of you, and Colombia’s citizens, made great strides toward ending Colombia’s civil conflict. While bringing an end to Colombia’s civil conflict is just one of the many issues that Colombia faces, it is central to your current criticism of Mr. Santos. I believe that you, the current president, and millions of Colombian citizens share the same wish: a prosperous Colombia for all. Therefore, I am disheartened by your continued open criticism of President Santos.

Mr. Santos was once an ally of yours, working in tandem to ensure your security agenda was successful. One might even go so far as to say that it helped him to secure the presidency. However, it seems that you disapprove of his vision for Colombia. President Santos has acknowledged the importance of security, but he wishes to supplement your previous agenda with additional socio-economic development policies. This is not a personal affront to you or your agenda; rather it reflects the positive changes that Colombia has undergone, many of which you can claim you had a hand in.

Instead, you have taken his actions as a personal attack. When the Santos administration penned a bill that offered reparations and land restitution to victims of violence as a result of Colombia’s “internal armed conflict,” you objected because in your view Colombia is only fighting the “terrorist” guerrillas. I hate to be one of the many millions to express to you that your view is incorrect. Colombia’s civil conflict is multi-faceted and extremely complex. You are a smart man and know better than to make such claims. To derail this legislation, you claimed that it could lead to the takeover of farms, an allegation that is yet to be proven correct. Even in the face of your public opposition, the Colombian Congress did the right thing and signed the bill into law. President Santos also heeded protests from human rights groups when considering a bill that included a clause that would give military courts initial jurisdiction over all crimes committed by members of the security forces. Santos urged Congress to remove the clause, while you (again) protested.

Colombia’s civil conflict (or in your eyes, the war against the FARC and drugs) is another area where you and Mr. Santos differ. Your administration scored strong victories against the FARC, and Santos has continued to win military victories against them. He has held your hard-line approach with the FARC, which you seem to refute in your recent tweet, “Future generations will be pained by the current weakness of negotiations with terrorists.” I must disagree with you if you claim Santos has gone soft on the FARC because he is holding tough, even after a unilateral hostage release by the FARC last week. If you are insinuating that he is laying the foundation for eventual peace talks, then I must ask, “what’s wrong with that?” Colombia needs a peaceful end to its civil conflict. Colombians all over the world would hail a successful peace negotiation. I cannot understand your criticism of President Santos over this matter, unless you are jealous that he is closer to bringing the conflict to an end than you were.

Finally, the issue of drug legalization is a touchy one across the Western Hemisphere, but it is a conversation worth having. President Santos has said he would support such a discussion. Just two weeks ago I saw you speak passionately about the dangers of drug legalization and criticize those who support such an initiative. I am glad that you have a strong opinion and are willing to voice it, but in doing so you are (un?)intentionally hurting Mr. Santos’ credibility. Your personal views on the subject are well known, but are you truly thinking of society or just incapable of acknowledging that your partnership with George W. Bush was for naught and your strong anti-drug positions are questionable?

A casual observer might notice that Uribe and hubris share more qualities than just a few similar letters in their spelling. This is not unexpected from a man who altered the constitution so that he could serve a second presidential term, and had a second attempt at such an amendment (for a third term) blocked by the Colombian courts. Recent reports that you might run for a Senate position and support an ally for the presidency only give more credence to such an observation. As a result, I believe that your consistent need to openly criticize President Santos says far more about you than it does about him and his policies—especially since Colombia has continued its positive developmental trends under Santos’ government.

Your contributions to Colombian history and the positive impact you are sure to have on Colombia’s future are clear. Therefore, you should cease your work against President Santos and allow him to do his job. He was elected by the Colombian people, just like you, and deserves to represent them. Having a former president (and apparent friend) question his every move does a disservice to him, the office, and the Colombian people.

Please, Mr. Uribe, back down for the sake of the Colombian people who revere you. Do not let your ego derail Colombia’s progress or destroy your deserved legacy.

– Max Rava

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