Jesuit criticizes Uribe in on-campus presentation

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Last Thursday, the Jesuit Community invited Fr. Mauricio García Durán, S.J., director of the Center for Research and Popular Education, to assess the legacy of Álvaro Uribe, the former Colombian president and current Georgetown Distinguished Scholar.

In the wake of unprecedented violence in Colombia, García explained, Uribe adopted the “Democratic Security Policy,” which abandoned a decades-long peace process in favor of a direct military campaign against the left-wing guerrilla movement FARC. While García admitted that homicides and human rights violations decreased during Uribe’s administration, he also pointed out that the bloodshed only decreased to levels seen during the 1990s.

García also claimed that Uribe did little to stop the resurgence of right-wing paramilitary groups that emerged to combat the FARC, complaining that only two paramilitary leaders have been indicted although paramilitaries displaced 4 million people and illegally appropriated 6,500,000 hectares of mostly peasant land.

According to García, the Colombian army was responsible for 4,400 human rights violations between 2002 and 2009. The “false positives” scandal, where civilians were mistaken for guerrillas, lured to the countryside, and killed, was a notable example of the violations. Although Uribe has denied allegations, García believes that the former President pushed the army for results in the fight against guerrillas.

“In order to go up in the ranks, the official had to show results,” García said. “One of the many criteria for this was a body count.”

After the scandal broke, the government adopted a zero-tolerance policy with respect to human rights violations. However, García added, many of the generals indicted during the scandal have been set free. In light of what he sees as  “sad realities,” García called for an “integrated solution,” which would address human development needs and social inequality, to combat the guerrilla problem.

Unsurprisingly, García’s speech elicited strong responses from the crowd. Alejandro Arbelaez, former Colombian vice-minister of defense, delivered an address in Spanish to try to refute the speaker’s claims.

“The state was the first to denounce [violations of human rights] and to prosecute the responsible parties,” Arbelaez said. “What a country of rights like Colombia is trying to do is to guarantee the fundamental rights of its people.”

Others, however, echoed recent on-campus demonstrations that criticized the Uribe’s presence at Georgetown.

“Uribe was brought here because he conformed to the preconceptions of power that Georgetown wants to make fundamental at this institution,” Katerina Downward (SFS ’14) said.

14 Comments on “Jesuit criticizes Uribe in on-campus presentation

  1. Couple of points.

    1) This presentation wasn’t without bias as the Jesuits have a long history of strife with right-of-center politicians in Latin America (they’re not entirely without reason, but I digress).

    2) The presenters failed to note that the FARC were not adhering to the so-called “ceasefire”, but rather used the opportunity to vastly expand the territory they controlled.

    3) The chart noting “Acts of War” by the Colombian military really bears little meaning. Uribe ordered an offensive against the rebels (who controlled 2/3 of the countryside), therefore Acts of War would naturally increase.

    4) The “Human Rights Violations” chart also carries very little meeting. The Colombian military and government operated in a more transparent fashion than the FARC, therefore more of their human rights violations were discovered. I doubt the FARC gave two thoughts to human rights.

    5) The paramilitaries were eventually disarmed, and Colombia is richer and more peaceful than it has been in decades. I don’t see how Uribe’s administration could be considered anything less than a success.

  2. This guy came and talked with undertones of how Columbia would have been better off had Uribe done nothing and the FARC run it’s show as usual. Give me a break…

    If we had a time machine he should go back 15 years and travel around Bogota and see if he comes home alive or without a ransom note.

  3. Irregardless of whether or not Uribe committed these atrocities, he is still a notable and influential figure. That is why Georgetown brought him here. No matter what you believe, you have to admit that he provides a wealth of knowledge for students and professors. Georgetown is in the right to have him here, and they should actively pursue other Presidents and international figures for our own benefit.

  4. “Uribe was brought here because he conformed to the preconceptions of power that Georgetown wants to make fundamental at this institution.” Does this mean anything or was she just trying to fit as many four syllable words into one sentence as possible?

    Also, 6.5 million, wow that’s a lot!!! Definitely sounds a lot more impressive than “25,000 square miles” or “about the size of West Virginia.”

  5. Try to avoid using the word, “Irregardless.” It makes you sounds like a pretentious fool who has not mastered the English language.

  6. “Irregardless” of SFA’s poor word choice, his/her point is correct. Whether you support Uribe’s administration or not, all that matters is that he is a significant figure with a high profile and potentially valuable perspective. Whether it’s valuable as instruction or as cautionary example is for his students to decide.

  7. So, the main complaint these useful idiots have about Uribe is that he was successful in combating FARC? Perhaps, Uribe should be put in charge of enforcing U.S. immigration laws.

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  9. Why was he made a “Distinguished Scholar” and presented as an academic? He could have come here to speak to students, or take part in some sort of discussion – then we could actually learn something. When the university (or perhaps, certain people in charge) forces these appointments on us it takes away that room for debate, only one side of the story is told. You would think the evaluation of a university hiring should examine allegations of human rights abuses…

  10. why dont you study a bit about the origins of right-wing groups paramilitares. A join venture between Narcodelarers, army, and the well known convivir. before making all these judgements, you should consider to revise a case study in the congress of the republic of Colombia in 2007. Unfortunately at that time there were 40 paramilitares between senators and representatives.
    One ex left wing member, now a senator had the guts to investigate and bring up the origins and foundation of paramilitarism in Antioquia Colombia.
    and have a guess? you will find out the name of a very important person since 1990’s having protagonism with paramilitares.
    Dont believe what I say. believe what the facts show in this documentary from the house of senators in Colombia in 2007. Uribes followers would say as always that this is only splendorous rumors, but so far not any of them have raised any demand against this senator.

    others would say. “that senator is an ex guerrilla member” you are right. but non of the 40 senators and representatives who are paramilitares (some of them being under justice) would have raised such an investigation to be exposed in public and with facts.

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