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Editorial 14

Written by August 05 2020 0

An investigative unit (“Sala de Instruccion”) of the Colombia Supreme Court on August 4 ordered preventive house detention against former Colombia President (now Senator) Alvaro Uribe on charges of witness tampering in a case involving Colombia’s never-ending political cannibalism.

Ironically, the alleged victim of witness tampering – left-wing Senator Iván Cepeda of the Polo Democratic Party – was himself alleged to be involved in witness tampering in a Machiavellian scheme aiming to get criminals put in prison by former President Uribe to make outrageous allegations of Uribe’s supposed involvement in paramilitary crimes decades ago.

Reacting to the Supreme Court detention order against Uribe, Senator Cepeda stated via his Twitter account: “The lesson this decision gives us is that there are no people in Colombia who are above justice and the law, however powerful and influential they are.”

Given decades-long, internecine political wars and narco-terrorist schemes that tragically have corrupted and damaged nearly every sector of Colombian society -- including the justice system – the Cepeda claim that no-one is above justice here is not only ironic but sadly risible.

Just one example: FARC leaders and thousands of its members and accomplices have won complete impunity for horrific crimes – murders, kidnappings, extorsions and narco-trafficking -- as a result of Colombia’s deeply flawed “peace” treaty. Several of these criminals now have seats in the Colombia Congress – achieved not by popular vote but rather given to them by terms of that same peace treaty.

What’s more, the same Supreme Court that just ordered Uribe’s arrest is also the Court that recently set free convicted FARC narco-terrorist Jesus Santrich, now a guest of the narco-communist Venezuelan dictatorship that has long supported FARC.

Commenting on this latest irony, former Colombia Justice Vice-Minister Rafael Nieto Loaiza stated via his Twitter account that “the same Supreme Court that released Santrich deprives Alvaro Uribe Velez of liberty. It would prove, once again, that our criminal justice is politicized. And it would show that we are a failed state that rewards bandits and persecutes those who fight them.”

Diego Cadena -- one of Uribe’s lawyers investigating jailed criminals who are trying to take revenge against Uribe by alleging Uribe involvement in paramilitary crimes – also now faces charges of witness tampering. Cadena has publicly stated that Uribe was unaware of his attempts to convince some of those criminals to retract their allegedly false accusations against Uribe -- testimony that the Supreme Court so far has ignored.

Yet another irony in the case is that both Uribe and Senator Cepeda are the sons of fathers murdered in Colombia’s horrific, decades-long wars of terror and revenge.

President Uribe’s father was murdered by the narco-communist FARC army, while Senator Cepeda’s father – a member of the FARC’s now-extinct “Union Patriotica” political wing – was murdered by unknown bandits believed to be linked to paramilitary forces.

Uribe – a long-time member of Colombia’s social-democratic Liberal Party -- was Colombia’s most-popular president in all history, with more-than-70% favorability rankings. He later became the Colombian Senator who won the most popular votes in all Senate electoral history.

According to Colombia’s Defense Ministry, during Uribe’s eight years as President (2002 to 2010), extradition of narcos to the U.S. rose 546%, murders of mayors (typically carried-out by FARC terrorists) fell 67%, murders of labor union leaders fell 84% and murders of teachers-union militants fell 78%.

Murders of journalists fell 90%, kidnappings (typically by FARC and ELN terrorists) fell 90%, mass-kidnappings fell 100%, coca plantation acreage fell 44%, cocaine seizures rose 64% and mayors forced to leave their towns by FARC terrorists fell 100%, according to the Defense Ministry.

However, along the way, Uribe gained ferocious enemies --  not only from FARC and ELN, but also from paramilitaries, narco-gangsters of every stripe, and rival politicians.

Having survived numerous assassination attempts – including a FARC mortar attack on the Presidential Palace during his first inauguration, and another FARC bomb attack against his plane coming in for an airport landing – Uribe became Colombia’s most beloved politician, by the vast majority.

But Uribe simultaneously earned hatred not only from the extreme left wing but also from political rivals, including former President Juan Manuel Santos, architect of the “peace” treaty with the FARC that Uribe denounced as a betrayal.

Uribe’s intemperate character occasionally led him to accuse rivals of being fools, political hacks, or, in some cases, fellow-travelers of those seeking to impose a Communist dictatorship in Colombia.

For example: In 2009, then-President Uribe verbally attacked a Supreme Court decision to choose an Attorney General who lacked experience in criminal law but instead seemed to be favored by political manuevering. Uribe publicly accused the Court of “historical hypocrisy of introducing politicking to the management of justice,” which provoked reprimands from leaders of rival political parties and the Court itself.

President Duque Laments Court Decision

Following release of the Supreme Court order against Uribe, current Colombian President Ivan Márquez – a member of the same Centro Democratico Party founded by Uribe – lamented the decision.

“Throughout my life I have had the honor of meeting, treating, working and building a friendship with Álvaro Uribe Vélez. I have always considered him and will consider him a genuine patriot, dedicated to serving Colombia, as evidenced in a long career of public service as director of Aerocivil, Mayor of Medellín, Senator, Governor [of Antioquia] and as President of Colombia on two occasions,” President Marquez said.

“During his two [presidential terms], our country regained security [and] Colombia put itself in the eye of investment, and progress was made in social justice. With a sense of legality, Álvaro Uribe confronted drug trafficking, terrorism and totalitarian regimes in Latin America.

“As a result of his struggle, he and his family have been victims of all kinds of attacks and defamation, all kinds of epithets, and all kinds of accusations.

“It hurts as a Colombian that many of those who have lacerated the country with barbarism [now] defend themselves in freedom or, even, are guaranteed never to go to prison, and that an exemplary public servant, who has held the highest dignity of the State, is not allowed to defend himself in freedom, with the presumption of innocence.

“As President, I call for reflection. I understand the role of institutions and the independence of powers. As a citizen and believer in the institutions, I hope that the judicial channels will operate, and that there are full guarantees so that an upright human being can fully exercise his defense in freedom,” Márquez said.

Written by July 14 2020 0

The latest EcoAnalitica-Guarumo scientific survey of 2,122 voters across Colombia gives President Ivan Duque a 60% favorability ranking during the continuing Covid-19 crisis -- a slight decline from 63% favorability in the last survey in April.

The July 8-11 survey of voters in all major and minor Colombia cities has a margin of error of 2.5%, according to the company.

Among Colombian politicians with a national image, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero has the highest favorability ranking, at 81%, while Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez has fallen to 68% favorability, down sharply from 78% in the April 2020 survey.

Left-wing demagogue Senator Gustavo Petro – who lost in a landslide to President Duque in the 2018 presidential election – now has a 61% unfavorability rating. Only 32% give the bombastic Petro a “favorable” ranking -- worse than his nemesis, former President, now-Senator Alvaro Uribe (37.6% favorable, 53% unfavorable).

Coming in last in unfavorability is former Colombia Vice President German Vargas, a defender of the deeply flawed “peace” treaty between former President Juan Manuel Santos and the narco-communist FARC army, principally responsible for starting and then continuing a war that killed more than 300,000 mostly poor people, kidnapped for ransom thousands of others, converted vast territories into cocaine areas, and forcibly displaced some 6 million during its nearly 60-year reign of terror in the Colombian countryside.

Asked about favorites for the 2022 presidential elections, the biggest single voter category was “none,” at 32%. Former Medellin Mayor and Antioquia Governor Sergio Fajardo got the most votes for any named candidate, at 22.5%, followed by Petro at 17% and former Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez at 12.6%.

As in the April survey, the July survey found that most voters continue to worry more about their jobs than about the Covid-19 threat.

In total, 34.6% of voters said “employment” was their top worry, followed by “corruption” (27.6%), “Coronavirus” (13.6%), “the economy” (9.5%), “security” (4.5%), “education” (3.6%), “health” (3%), “the environment” (1.9%) and, in last place, “peace” (1.7%).

As for what they're mainly doing for Covid-19 protection, 31.7% said they usually wear masks while 22.6% said they use social-distancing. Frequent hand-washing was reported by18.4%, while seeking tele-work (rather than commuting to a physical work-place) accounted for 13.2% of responses.

Written by April 23 2020 0

Colombia’s main trade associations for departmental governors and mayorships just endorsed what most Colombians view as President Ivan Duque’s rational, science-driven and politically reasonable handling of the Coronavirus crisis.

The National Federation of Departments (FND) and the Colombian Federation of Municipalities (FCM) on April 22 publicly endorsed President Duque’s mandatory quarantine extension through May 11 – along with a gradual, controlled restart of construction and manufacturing industries under strict health protocols.

In a joint letter, the groups praised what they termed as “successful handling that the President has given to the crisis generated by the Covid-19, protecting life and health, and preventing a pandemic of unemployment, hunger, poverty and recession from being generated,” according to FND and FCM.

Even more telling: the just-released EcoAnalytic/Guarumo poll of eligible Colombian voters (see Medellin Herald, 21 April 2020) found that 74.5% of voters endorse Duque’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis and 81.5% endorsed his mandatory quarantine policy -- while 63% of voters reject the continuing anti-Duque demagoguery of Senator Gustavo Petro, who lost to Duque in a landslide in the 2018 presidential election.

However: This EcoAnalytic/Guarumo poll also revealed that only 33.5% favor continuation of the Coronavirus quarantine beyond April 27, while 45.8% favor terminating the quarantine.

Reason: Employment is now the number-one worry, at 32.4% of Colombians polled, with the possibility of Coronavirus infection only the second-greatest worry, at 23.4%, the poll shows.

Despite growing panic over jobs and the economy, Bogota Mayor Claudia López -- who campaigned for demagogue Petro in the 2018 election -- is launching Quixotic attacks on Duque, signaling the start of her expected 2022 campaign for the Colombian presidency.

President Duque by contrast isn’t running for anything, as Colombia’s constitution only allows a single term.

The first López attack – likely aiming to shift blame for any personal responsibility for Bogota having by far the worst Coronavirus prevalence in all Colombia – came in a theatrical bloviation, blaming the Bogota airport as the principal culprit.

“Over my dead body,” López yelled to reporters over the non-existent, Quixotic idea of reopening Bogota’s airport.

Ironically, President Duque has blocked all passenger air traffic at all Colombian airports and has publicly stated he has no intention of restarting international flights.

Beyond tilting at windmills over the airport non-issue, now Mayor López is criticizing President Duque’s decision to allow strictly controlled reopenings of construction and manufacturing sectors – combined with strict limits on public passenger transport (maximum 35% of capacity, mandatory masks, mandatory distancing) along with Duque’s initiatives and mandates to expand relatively safe, Coronavirus-free bicycle transport and telecommuting alternatives.

However, even a well-controlled reopening of public transport means more passengers on Bogota’s public transport system. Hence, according to López, this inevitably means more Coronavirus cross-infections.

However, all recent economic-expert reports agree that Colombia must gradually restart its economy – under strict health controls -- or else watch its entire economy collapse, hurtling millions more into poverty, accompanied by inevitable food riots, massive street violence and a likely surge in deaths from other poverty-linked diseases.

Which begs the question: Is demanding a total shutdown of the Colombian economy -- while waiting another 12 to 18 months for a Coronavirus vaccine -- the smart way for López to start a 2022 presidential campaign?

Written by April 20 2020 0

Until the Coronavirus crisis appeared, Colombia President Ivan Duque generally had difficulty connecting with voters and had slipped in popularity polls -- initially because of a prior failure to build a broader, effective coalition in the multi-party Colombian Congress.

But that’s all changed since Duque successfully broadened his Congress base late last year – and even more so now, because of what most people view as a timely, balanced, responsible and respectful response to the Coronavirus crisis.

According to the just-issued EcoAnalytica/Guarumo poll of eligible voters in Colombia (see: https://s3.amazonaws.com/Guarumo/ecoanalitica/2020_04_Percepcion_Pais.pdf), Duque’s favorability ranking hit 63.2% this month, while Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero also now enjoys a similarly favorable 65.3% ranking.

Former M-19 guerilla, now-Senator Gustavo Petro – who lost in a landslide to President Duque in the 2018 presidential election – now has the worst ranking among all national politicians at 63.3% unfavorability. Only 27.8% now give the bombastic, incendiary Petro a “favorable” ranking -- worse than his nemesis, former President, now-Senator Alvaro Uribe (40% favorable, 52% unfavorable).

While Duque has won overwhelming praise from the voting population over his handling of the Coranavirus crisis, the poll shows that Colombian voters are nevertheless increasingly worried about what’s going to happen to their jobs.

In total, 74.5% have endorsed Duque’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis -- and 81.5% endorsed the mandatory quarantine.

However: Only 33.5% of those polled now favor continuation of the Coronavirus quarantine beyond April 27, with 45.8% favoring termination of the quarantine after April 27.

Rationale: employment is now the number-one worry, at 32.4% of those polled, with the possibility of Coronavirus infection only the second-greatest worry, at 23.4%, the poll shows.

“Health” concerns were cited by another 10.7%, followed by “the economy” at 6.2%” and “corruption,” also at 6.2% in the descending list of worries.

“Education” was the sixth-most worry, at 4.5%, followed by “security” at 3.4%. “Peace” was next at 2.3%, followed by “the environment,” in eighth-place (1.6%), while “justice” came-in ninth place (1.4%), the polling shows.

Written by February 11 2020 0

A report claiming ties between former President Alvaro Uribe and imprisoned Mexican drug kingpin “El Chapo” Guzman has now prompted even President Uribe’s longest-running, harshest media critic to trash the report as unsubstantiated.

The apparent fake-news report – first broadcast by fired former Colombian Attorney General’s Office investigator and convicted criminal Richard Maok, and subsequently repeated in UK-based newspaper Daily Mail --also prompted President Uribe’s lawyers to issue an unusual February 10 news release contradicting the report.

The biggest surprise, however, came from fierce Uribe critic, former Semana magazine columnist and now Univision editorial director Daniel Coronell, who trashed the apparent fake-news story, pulling it from Univision broadcasts “because I consider that this report hasn’t been verified by independent [rather than the usual anti-Uribe, left-wing-biased] journalists,” Coronell stated.

In addition, President Uribe’s Bogota-based attorneys Jaime Granados and Jaime Lombana issued the following press release (obtained by Medellin Herald) denouncing the Maok report as a fantastical fabrication:

“Responding to new calumnies proffered against President Alvaro Uribe Velez, we state the following:

“Richard Maok is a fugitive from Colombian justice, condemned [by the Colombian Supreme Court] for grave crimes against the administration of national justice.

“Aided by political sectors adverse to President Uribe [including left-wing Senator and former M-19 guerrilla Gustavo Petro], Maok fled to Canada where he enjoys immunity from his crimes.

“Since years ago, this shadowy person has proffered a series of infamies against various public persons including Luis Camilo Osorio, former Attorney General [of Colombia]. These ‘denunciations’ [by Maok], lacking any seriousness, have been debunked.

“Now, [Maok] has chosen President Uribe as victim of his absurd calumnies, trying to link [Uribe] to the Sinaloa cartel. Lamentably, international news media have echoed these fantastical tales, staining the good name of President Uribe.

“President Uribe has been recognized globally and regionally as one of the most important leaders in the struggle against narcotrafficking. Statistics [during Uribe’s two terms as President] are unprecedented: Reduction [of coca plantation areas] from 180,000 hectares during Plan Colombia to 62,000; more than 1,150 [cocaine traffickers] extradited [to the United States]; seizures of cocaine rising from 95 tonnes in 2002 to more than 1,330 tonnes at the end of his term – achievements that were key in the transformation of Colombia and our democracy. Because of that he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the highest decoration given by the U.S. government to any civilian,” the bulletin from Uribe’s lawyers concludes.

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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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