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Colombia: Uribe's Bittersweet Visit to Washington

Categories: Latin America, North America, Colombia, U.S.A., Human Rights, Politics, Protest

On 2 May, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez started a three-day visit [1] to Washington, seeking support for Plan Colombia and the Free Trade Agreement's approval in U. S. Congress. But he wasn't really that welcomed. On the first day, Uribe came across dozens of demonstrators outside the American Center for Progress. He wanted to “discuss” issues with them… an attitude quite different than the one he holds towards the opposition in his own country. The same man, who said he’d be a “guerrilla man” and a “paramilitary” with a gun, not a mediocre one, all the same week [2], was called by the demonstrators an ‘assasin’ [3], accusing him of being responsible for the deaths of around 400 union leaders in Colombia.

Tefiloca, writing in a blog called Analisis de la interpretacion en RCN noticias [ES] devoted to criticize [4] Colombian network RCN [5], (which some call the Fox News tropical equivalent), says:

Lo “mejor de todo” es que la periodista si se puede llamar así, porque ultimamente solamente aparece como presentadora, Vicky Dávila hace el comentario de que aparentemente los exiliados colombianos tienen una mala informacion de nuestro país. Dando a entender que en Colombia vivimos en un paraiso y que aquí no sucede nada.

The “best of all” is that the so-called journalist, because she’s lately appearing only as a presenter, Vicky Dávila makes this comment that apparently Colombian expatriates have bad information on our country, giving to understand that we in Colombia live in a paradise and that nothing happens.

In contrast, a blogger signing as Editorial at Con Ojos de Estudiante [ES]stands favorable [6] to the democratically elected president:

El duro día del Presidente Uribe también incluyó una débil manifestación que ofrecieron unos cuantos mojigatos afuera del Centro Americano para Progreso. Como se acostumbra, nuestro honorable Presidente Uribe decidió enfrentarlos para ver si sus críticas tenían algo de fundamento pues alegaban la muerte de centenares de sindicalistas desde principio de la década de 1991. Al preguntársele, los infames manifestantes no tenían la menor idea de lo que estaban hablando. Parece ser que una vez más la oposición internacional habla sin fundamento. Es el deber del gobierno y del país entero, hacer saber cuál es la realidad que vive nuestro país ensangrentado por la violencia de una minoría. No es la primera vez que pasa, sucedió la semana pasada también en el fallido encuentro con el cuasipolítico-actor de Gore. Lo mismo sucede con cientos de ONG internacionales que dicen apoyar la causa ‘revolucionaria’ de las FARC y mostrar un retrato del Ché, pensando que están de acuerdo con su filosofía por que se vieron “Motorcycle Diaries”.

President’s tough day also included a weak demonstration offered by some prudes outside the American Center for Progress. As usual, our honorable President decided to face them to see if their criticisms had any basis because they were alleging responsibility in the death of hundreds of unionists since the early 1990s. When he asked (them), the infamous demonstrators had no idea of what they were talking about. It seems that again the international opposition speaks with unfounded allegations. The government and the entire country must make known about the reality in which our country lives, bloodstained by the violence of a minority. It’s not the first time this happens, it occurred last week [2] during the failed meeting with the quasi-politician-actor [Al] Gore. The same happens with hundreds of international ONGs who claim to support the FARC’s ‘revolutionary’ cause and show a portrait of Ché [Guevara], thinking they agree with his philosophy because they watched “Motorcycle Diaries”.

On 3 May, Uribe met U. S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic Congresspeople, trying to discuss the FTA. Instead, Ms. Pelosi asked about [7] prosecution for military allegedly involved with paramilitaries:

It is essential that the Colombian government investigate and prosecute such officials, including those at high levels. Those within Colombia who are calling for full disclosure about paramilitary influence should be commended for their constructive efforts to build a stronger democracy.

Journalist and blogger Felipe Zuleta writes [ES] [8] that “in the United States the impertinent ‘arriero’ provides no results, he can go with that boastful manner of speaking to some other place” and asks his readers whether the paramilitary chiefs are going to be extradited (they haven't been extradited thanks to the Justice and Peace Law).

Meanwhile, Colombia mainstream media seems to try to minimize the negative results of Uribe's visit by publishing a poll [9] claiming that Uribe is even more popular than before (75%), and that opposition senator Gustavo Petro's negative image actually soared [10]. The controversy is served. Zuleta slams the media [ES] [11] for ‘covering up’ the ‘disastrous’ Uribe's visit to Washington, says Colombian journalism. It “is a shame” and asked the citizens to access the blogs and denounce. In a comment [ES] [12], o-lu from Sociología para novatos [ES], which has dealt with the poll issue [13], claiming that Gallup polls are inaccurate because they are made by phone in a country where only 54% of the homes have a telephone line, says:

El manejo de Jorge Londoño de esta encuesta confirma la impresion de que el hombre tiene un sesgo previo. En efecto, el encuestador hace coincidir la fecha de aparicion de sus resultados […] con el dia D para Uribe en el Congreso de USA, donde como bien sabemos -pese a que algunos medios de comunicacion NO informaron- le fue muy mal. Esto le da pretexto a los mismos medios para enredar la noticia de USA, que es la importante. Mientras la independencia politica de este encuestador en particular siga siendo tan cuestionable, sera dificil tomar esos resultados como datos fiables.

The way Jorge Londoño (president of pollster Invamer-Gallup) manipulates this poll confirms the impression that this man is biased. Actually, the pollster makes the results’ publishing date to match […] with Uribe's D-day in U. S. Congress, where as we all know, despite what some mainstream media DID NOT report, the visit went really poor. This gives the media a pretext to complicate the U. S. news, which is the important one. As long as this pollster's political independence remains so questionable, it will be hard to take these results as reliable data.

Camilo Galán, from leftist Colombia Hoy [ES] blog, remarks that [14]:

Nunca en la historia reciente de Colombia habíamos visto a un Presidente de la República presentarse ante un grupo de congresistas de una potencia extranjera para dar explicaciones. La reunión con Pelosi y sus compañeros de bancada, más que un dialogo constructivo, como se quiere presentar en Colombia, fue un interrogatorio al presidente colombiano sobre la parapolítica. […] Una cosa es el lobby y otra muy diferente es pisotear la dignidad presidencial. A ese tipo de situaciones no se puede prestar un presidente. […] Una vez más Uribe nos ha demostrado que la soberanía de Colombia hoy está en otro lugar. El presidente colombiano no le da explicaciones satisfactorias a los colombianos, pero sí se las da a los congresistas de los Estados Unidos. Uribe irrespeta a la prensa colombiana, pero es diligente con la de los Estados Unidos. Uribe irrespeta a la oposición legítima de Colombia, pero es “suavecito” y genuflexo con el partido de oposición de los Estados Unidos.

Never in Colombia's recent history have we seen a President of the Republic to turn up before a foreign power's Congressional group in order to give them explanations. The meeting with Pelosi and her fellow Democrat congresspeople, which was more than a constructive dialogue, as it's being presented in Colombia, was an interrogation for the Colombian president on the parapolitical scandal. […] One thing is to lobby and it is another different thing to stomp on presidential dignity. […] Once again Uribe has shown that Colombia's sovereignity is somewhere else. Colombian president gives no satisfactory explanations to Colombian people [2], but he does give them to U. S. Congresspeople. Uribe is disrespectful to Colombian press, but is diligent with U. S. media. Uribe is disrespectful to legitimate opposition in Colombia, but is “soft” and knelt down with U. S. opposition party.

Julio Suárez Anturi entitles his post “Uribe [came back] with his hands empty [ES] [15]” and tells us about a interview with CNN en Español's Ángela Patricia Janiot which was finally cancelled. The quote is from Ms. Janiot, who said that in the report on Uribe's visit. Colombia leader told [ES] [16]journalists that he'd talk with “all 535 U. S. Congresspeople if necessary” in order to achieve FTA's approval, and he will be back in June [17] to insist on it, in spite Bush's support [18].