Colombian Frontrunner Looks To War 

Colombian Frontrunner Looks To War 
Posted by CN Staff on May 19, 2002 at 21:20:41 PT
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post Foreign Service
Source: Washington Post 
Alvaro Uribe Velez, a wonkish former governor from Colombia's drug-and-violence belt, is poised to win the country's presidency later this month by uniting voters behind a sobering message: More war is Colombia's shortest path to peace.After 38 years of conflict and an experiment in peace talks that exploded earlier this year, Colombia's traditionally divided electorate seems ready to go along with that gamble in the hopes of ending an increasingly powerful Marxist-led insurgency. 
Uribe has become the most popular politician in the country by promising to double defense spending, give the military a freer hand, enlist civilians deeply in the war effort and perhaps call up as many as 30,000 reservists.Uribe's plans would open a new phase in Colombia's war and invite a deeper role for the United States. He has called on Washington to join the fight against Colombia's three irregular armies -- not only the drug trade that finances their operations -- suggesting he will need more U.S. military equipment, intelligence and money."If we don't react immediately, our rule of law will die," Uribe said in an interview last week in Bogota, the capital. "We lack resources -- money, equipment, soldiers, many things -- but with political will we can defeat these groups. But if we don't act now, we will succumb."If his support and safety hold through the May 26 election -- he has been the target of one assassination attempt during the campaign -- Uribe would be within striking distance of capturing more than 50 percent of the vote in a six-person field and avoiding a June runoff. After winning elections for mayor, governor and senator as a candidate of the Liberal Party, one of Colombia's two major political parties, he now is running as an independent with much of the political establishment behind him. Campaigning ended Sunday; under Colombian law, public appearances are prohibited during the week before voting day.A first-round victory would be a first in Colombia and signal a broad consensus for the military solution Uribe favors to end the war. It would also serve as a public endorsement for an approach less circumscribed by human rights considerations, which Colombia's generals have long complained hamper their effectiveness in fighting irregular forces that do not play by the same rules.Uribe's record suggests that human rights have never been his most pressing concern. His hard-line approach has made him the preferred candidate of Colombia's 15,000-member right-wing paramilitary force, the United Self-Defense forces of Colombia (AUC), which fights alongside the U.S.-backed army against two Marxist guerrilla groups.The AUC has quietly endorsed Uribe in a number of regions and has urged residents to support him in the voting booth. Meanwhile, the largest guerrilla group -- the 18,000-member Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) -- has threatened whole towns with destruction if a single vote is cast for Uribe.Uribe has denied any affinity for the paramilitaries, or plans to grant them political recognition in any peace process. But human rights groups contend his plans would reduce the military's accountability and open the door to abuses."It is very worrying that Uribe has already declared that he will allow the military to perform functions like arrests, raids and interrogations that are usually the purview of prosecutors," said Gustavo Gallon, director of the Colombian Commission of Jurists, a leading human rights group. "This not only goes against the constitution and international human rights agreements, but also Colombia's experience in these matters."Last year, 3,500 people died in a war that Washington became more directly involved with two years ago with a $1.3 billion aid package that was earmarked mostly for the military and targeted a drug trade that now produces 90 percent of the U.S. cocaine supply.Uribe, 49, would take office at a time when Washington is already contemplating a broader role in the war. The Bush administration has asked Congress to lift restrictions so that U.S. aid can be used directly against the guerrilla and paramilitary groups, both designated as terrorist organizations by the State Department.Washington "decertified" Colombia as a reliable partner in the drug war and suspended then-President Ernesto Samper's visa after it was revealed that his 1994 campaign was partly financed with drug proceeds. Andres Pastrana, who took office in 1998 on a pledge to hold peace talks with the guerrillas, restored good relations with the United States.But Pastrana, who by law cannot seek a second term, irritated Washington by allowing the the rebels' to maintain a haven in southern Colombia that he had granted them as a venue for peace negotiations, despite signs they were using it as a base to mount a broader war. Those talks collapsed in February.In the interview, Uribe said he intended to ask the United States to expand the aid package known as Plan Colombia, perhaps by sending more helicopters, expanding intelligence-sharing arrangements and restarting the drug-interdiction flights suspended since a missionary plane was accidentally shot down over Peru last year. Uribe estimated that 20 drug flights leave Colombia daily, and as many arrive carrying arms.Uribe's political rise began in the western Andes at a sunnier moment in Colombia's history. The Uribes were the most important family in Salgar, a town in the southwestern corner of Antioquia province, where Alvaro rode to school each morning on horseback before he was old enough to read. Social life sprang from the stables, or St. John the Evangelist church, and prosperity bloomed in the coffee fields that covered the sides of the valley.Nearly a half-century later, Salgar is among the hundreds of villages that have been overrun by the war. The violence has also taken its toll on the Uribes: Guerrillas killed the candidate's father, Alberto Uribe, almost 20 years ago and rebel death threats prevented Uribe from attending his mother's funeral."My family is among the 50 percent of Colombian families that have suffered deeply because of the violence," Uribe said. "But I do not feel vengeance. Sadness, yes; not vengeance. To aspire to be Colombia's president, I cannot be motivated by that."The oldest of five children, Uribe grew up in Colombia's most Roman Catholic, conservative province, where the social strife that has scarred the country is oldest and runs deepest. Antioquia, with coffee, gold mines and banana groves, is also the country's richest province. That has fostered a mercantile culture, which helped give rise to the cocaine cartels that emerged here in the early 1980s when Uribe was mayor of this city, 145 miles northwest of Bogota.Land is an essential part of Antioquian life, but the war's expansion has made the stables of walking horses and weekend farms a thing of the past. Indeed, much of Uribe's support among Colombia's elite can be understood as a yearning to reclaim that lost life. He has promised to restore order in the countryside.Uribe's own farm, where he keeps prized horses, sits in the heart of paramilitary country near the northern city of Monteria. This is the life he most misses, his friends say, and it is part of a frontier image that along with his conservative politics has brought comparisons to Ronald Reagan. That persona is only belied by his steel-rimmed glasses, Harvard graduate work, and a reserve. His running mate, the journalist and anti-kidnapping activist Francisco Santos, calls him a "nerd."Uribe's father was something of a legend in Antioquia for his feverish business dealings and back-slapping personality. Alberto Uribe was a professional middleman, who bought and sold livestock and land, often on large amounts of credit. At one point, he owned more than 70 farms throughout the province.But when the FARC came to his farm on the Nus River in northeastern Antioquia one day in 1983, shooting him dead and wounding another of his sons, the enormity of his debt became apparent. Questions also surrounded Alberto Uribe's associations with Fabio Ochoa, the patriarch of the family that helped lead Medellin's powerful cocaine cartel that flourished here in the 1980s.Those who knew the Uribes at that time said Alberto's relationship with Ochoa and his family centered on the horse trade, and began and ended before the cocaine business took off.But his son has been followed by allegations of ties to the drug trade -- first as head of the civil aviation administration in the early 1980s and then as mayor of Medellin, Colombia's second-largest city. At the aviation agency, Uribe authorized permits for the construction of private airstrips, key parts of the infrastructure of the international drug trade. Political opponents have accused him of giving permission to people who turned out to be in the drug business."Many of these airstrips were used by narcotraffickers, but it was impossible to know that at the time," said Pedro Juan Moreno, who was Uribe's chief of staff during his four-year term as governor of Antioquia, which ended in 1999. "You give permission to someone you think is a decent person, and then they can use it for whatever they want."As governor, Uribe increased education spending and funding for job training, and built a number of roads and public works projects. But the war also came to the province more intensely during his tenure, as an explosion of paramilitary groups began challenging the guerrillas. Human rights advocates have said that the paramilitary phenomenon in Antioquia was encouraged, at least in part, by Uribe's security policies.Uribe's creation of civilian defense groups as surrogates for absent state security forces is at the heart of a lingering unease over what shape his "firm hand" approach might take. Uribe created 69 such groups in the province, providing them with radios and motorcycles and authorizing them to carry guns.At least two of the groups were found to have played a key role in the paramilitary siege on the northwestern Uraba region, which began before Uribe took office but culminated during his term. Human rights advocates say the groups gathered intelligence, then shared it with the army and paramilitary units, and perhaps carried out assassinations.Most of those civilian groups have disappeared. But Uribe says he intends to create a similar program "the first day after my inauguration," citing the same state security vacuum that leaves vast stretches of the country defenseless against guerrilla attacks. He has backed off his initial recommendation that the government arm the groups, but said they will be supplied with radios and perhaps motorcycles.One such group still exists in Rio Negro, a region of fertile ranches on the high plain east of Medellin, which guerrillas have preyed on for years. Uribe owns one of the 265 farms monitored by the group.The group's 22 employees -- most of them former members of the military -- patrol the bougainvillea-lined lanes with radios and personal weapons, gathering intelligence on visitors, guerrilla movements and kidnappings, which they share with the army. In two years, according to its members, the group has helped capture 20 guerrillas. Last year, the head of the group was killed by suspected guerrillas."It is an important initiative because it firms up civilian support for the armed," said Alfredo Rangel, a military analyst in Bogota. "But the details will make the difference, and right now they are not very clear."Note: Candidate Favors Force In Battle With Rebels.   Medellin, Colombia Source: Washington Post (DC)Author: Scott Wilson, Washington Post Foreign ServicePublished: Monday, May 20, 2002; Page A01 Copyright: 2002 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Related Articles & Web Site:Colombia Drug War News America's Other Fight Damage from Colombia's Drug War Drug Officer Removed as US Aid Vanishes
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Comment #5 posted by gloovins on May 20, 2002 at 17:16:42 PT
You know ...
"More war is Colombia's shortest path to peace", it reads..That kinda reminds me of an old phrase I heard once:Fighting for peace is like f*cking for virginity.
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on May 20, 2002 at 06:02:57 PT:
Uribe will his last American...
The parallels with Viet Nam grow clearer with every day...
A native population weary of war and distrustful of its' 'own' government. A military whose civil rights record is nothing short of atrocious. Leftist guerillas no better. Economic and social unrest. A long running civil war that has destabilized society to the point that many within society refuse to participate in it's upkeep. Or it's fighting. Corporate interests competing to see which government functionary can be either bribed...or eliminated.So Uribe wants us to do his fighting for Nugyen Kao Key wanted us to in Viet Nam. How close does it have to be before the link is made?
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Comment #3 posted by goneposthole on May 20, 2002 at 05:21:53 PT
What, me worry?
I don't worry too much about the narco-traffickers, they find ways to move their goods that are, for the most part, peaceful.It's those darned oil-traffickers that worry me. Everywhere they go, they take an army with them.Re-legalize hemp.
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on May 20, 2002 at 00:46:25 PT
.....q by four......
...I discussed this article with qqqq earlier this evening.,and I got some ideas about what my take is on all this.
First off,,let's look at some items from this article.
"Uribe has become the most popular politician in the country by promising to double defense spending, give the      military a freer hand, enlist civilians deeply in the war effort and perhaps call up as many as 30,000 reservists.
"A first-round victory would be a first in Colombia and signal a broad consensus for the military solution Uribe favors to end the war. It would also serve as a public endorsement for an approach less circumscribed by human rights considerations, which Colombia's generals have long complained hamper their effectiveness in fighting irregular forces that do not play by the same rules."
..To suggest that Colombia has a government that is represenative of its' people,,is even sillier than suggesting that the US government represents its citizens..."30,000 reservists".?..What a pile of crap!....Uribe will be ushered into office by the empire...They may even stage a few more fake "assasination attempts",to make the "victory" more dramatic,and convincing....... ..."A first-round victory would be a first in Colombia and signal a broad consensus for the military solution Uribe favors to end the war."............. A "military solution",to this particular situation,,will mean nothing less than a SLAUGHTER of untold thousands of people,,who will be labeled as "terrorists",,,or "suspected terrorists"......We caught a slight glimpse of what the real story was/is in Afghanistan.....We saw more of the same in the West Bank,and Jenin,,,Now,,,,we are going to hear very little from the Colombian massacre...The empire already has a tight grip on the "news" from Colombia,,and you can bet that the dark powers of empire corporate oil bogarts,, already have a plan in the works to eliminate any,and all threats to their goldmine of oil,and the pipelines that flow towards the coast....Colombia will be similar to Afghanistan,,but even more bloody,,and even more censored.
.. ..Uribe is a puppet of the empire,,and he will be used as a way to funnel weapons,and military strength to the empire ,and the empire will make it look as if the Colombian government is doing it all..... After all,, does anyone think that the empire has nothing to do with the political events in Colombia?...This is the same empire that attempted to orchestrate a coup in neighboring Venezuela,another vital oil country....The empire has huge political influence in Colombia.......
." It would also serve as a public endorsement for an approach less circumscribed by human rights considerations...".
..A public endorsement huh...?That's a rather broad assumption!........Uribe and his regime will soon be on the US payroll,,as the empire delivers billions in weapons,and cash,,and it will be called,,"..Aid,,,to help the people of Colombia fight terror.".. And the news reports will say,"Colombian troops clashed with terrorists rebels...",,and,,"Colombian air force bombs terrorist camps..."......Some people suggest that the US will get into another Viet Nam.There will be no more "Viet Nams",,there is no way that will ever be allowed to happen,because we now live in the day and age of hi-tech weaponry,,and even higher tech control of information...The empire will crush its opponents quicker than you can say JFK.
 ....... .......that's what 4q said.....................dddd
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Comment #1 posted by Toad on May 19, 2002 at 23:06:31 PT
Our Death is Better than Yours
Oh, I sure hope that we give the Colombians lots of arms so they can more efficiently kill each other. That will certainly make things better down there. Our paid off congressmen always make sure American defense companies make big $$$.
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