A democratic president shouldn’t insult

Hugo Chávez kicked him out of Venezuela when Human Rights Watch had written a critical report about human rights in the country. Álvaro Uribe said that he had lost respect for him, because he was blind, dogmatic, fanatic and full of resentment. Poor José Miguel Vivanco, director for Latin America of Human Rights Watch, isn’t liked by both the presidents of Venezuela and Colombia.

Human Rights Watch wrote a report on the application of the Justice and Peace Law in Colombia, which was created after the right wing paramilitaries handed over their arms. According to the human rights organization mr. Uribe’s government hinders the trial of the paramilitary mafias in Colombia. To make things worse for the Colombian government, Amnesty International as well wrote a critical report about human rights in the country. Among other things it criticized attacks by the army on the civil population.

As could be expected Uribe was furious and not also insulted Vivanco, whom he accused moreover of being an accomplice of the leftist guerrilla group FARC. He also attacked Amnesty International, saying that this organization shouldn’t think it is a professor of human rights.

As to Chávez, the European Council urged him to respect the rules of democracy. The expulsion of Vivanco was one of the reasons to do this, and also the bad treatment of opponents of the government. Considering this: The Colombian Presidency hasn’t treated his political opponents in an elegant way either. The accusation of ‘supporting the guerrilla’ or being ‘an accomplice of the guerrilla’ has been expressed in many occasions. María Elvira Samper, columnist of the weekly Cambio, complained that Uribe’s government even sees guerrilleros in the soup.

It is time that Uribe realizes that a democratic president has to accept critics, also if he thinks that they are wrong. He has every possibility of reacting to Human Rights Watch’s criticism with arguments. That would be a lot better than insulting its director. Moreover, by insulting he creates the impression that Human Rights Watch is right.

Author Wies Ubags is a
Dutch freelance journalist in Bogotá and works for media in
her country.

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