Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Colombia: Former President to Run for Office in Senate, Says His Country Needs Him

According to EFE, former President Alvaro Uribe announced on Monday (September 16)  his candidacy for the Senate in Colombia’s March 2014 legislative elections.

Uribe, who governed from 2002-2010, announced his intention of returning to Congress, where he served as a senator during the 1990s,  at a press conference near his home in Rionegro, near the northwestern city of Medellín.

COMMENT: The former president who over the past three years has been in strong opposition to President Juan Manuel Santos, his former minister of defense, justified his decision on grounds that the country’s situation demands that his party get back on “the path to inspiring confidence.”

“In a nation that has been so generous to me, I feel an obligation to continue in politics as long as I have the energy,” said Uribe, who cannot run for president again due to term limits.

Uribe said that throughout the week he will reveal who will make up the congressional list that he will head.

Leaders of his rightist Democratic Center movement will also collect signatures so they can present voter lists and consolidate themselves as a political party.

Uribe boiled down his proposals into five points: democratic security, investor confidence, social cohesion, popular dialogue, and a state that is austere in its spending and expansive in meeting its social obligations.

Uribe and his team also said that negotiations with illegal armed groups “must accept the obligations and benefits of complying with the law,” a reference to his criticism of the current government’s conversations in Cuba with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Santos government is also planning to negotiate with the National Liberation Army (ELN), both of which have plagued the central government since the 1960s.

Unfortunately, President Santos is slowly running out of time, as he has publicly stated that he would wait until November 2013 before deciding whether he will run for reelection, very likely to see if he has sufficient support to successfully win reelection, particularly given his overtures with the rebels.

Santos' popularity has waned, largely as a result of many Colombian citizens worried that Santos may give the FARC and the ELN far more concessions than either group deserves.  

Another long-term ramification is whether the FARC and/or the ELN will pursue legitimacy by running for office in future political elections, which could further complicate Colombia's political and economic future.