Jesuit criticizes Uribe in on-campus presentation
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.