Monday, August 07, 2006

Thoughts on Alvaro Uribe's second inaguration

If you listen closely, you can hear "We Are the
Champions" playing in the background.

Yes, I know that Alvaro Uribe was inagurated to a second term as Colombia's president and yes I'm also quite aware that for pundits on the right that he's the best thing since sliced bread and a godsend against the political left. (If I have to hear the term "anti-Chavez" once more I might go mad! And no I'm not pro-Chavez. I'm anti-silly sound bites.)

However, please keep the following in mind:

1- Latin American leaders tend to have worse second terms than first terms. While Uribe enjoys high popularity and lots of support from the U.S. government, he will need to be cautious not to get embroiled in scandal or some sort of controversy.

2- What could hurt Uribe over the next four years? The peace process with paramilitary groups has not gone smoothly and has given them far too much leeway. (While the crime rate has plummeted in Medellin, for instance, some citizens credit it to the work of the paras, not local law enforcement.) Leftist insurgents may be weakened but they're still wreaking havoc in parts of Colombia. Economically the region might be ready for a downturn and this would impede any plans the government may have towards improving social programs. (Which seems to be a priority for Uribe according to his inaguration speech). The Uribe administration's very close ties to big business may end up being a disadvantage. (Cough...Sabas Pretelt...cough...cough).

3- Lost in all the hubub and fawning over Uribe is the gradual resurgence of the Colombian left. Though Uribe did win in a landslide, the political faction representing the left got second place with the highest ever percentage for a left-wing party. Keep an eye out for current Bogota mayor and Uribe critic "Lucho" Garzon who may have a strong chance at the presidency in four years.

4- With Uribe's releection came the end of the traditional political dominance by the Liberal and Conservative parties and a shift towards factions led by individuals. (Approximately a half-dozen political factions ran in the legislative elections earlier this year under the Uribe banner!) Once Uribe's term ends who will emerge and be the leader-du-jour? At this stage it could be anybody running on an individual-based platform.

5- Uribe may not have the same amount of support after the next U.S. presidential election in two years. Though it looks doubtful that any of the top contenders will radically change U.S. policy towards Colombia, a new president and/or Congress may want more accountability from Colombia's losing effort against illegal drugs and an improvement of Colombia's dismal human rights record.

Regardless if my personal animosity towards Uribe, I really hope that Colombia can improve its weak points over the next four years and that the country as a whole can be a lot better. It would only be fair.

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