An article published by the U.S.’s Washington Post on Tuesday praised Colombia for setting a positive example for other Latin American democracies, after the defeat of the referendum that would have allowed President Alvaro Uribe to pursue a third term.
The Washington Post said it was important to “take note when democracy triumphs over autocratic temptations,” and lauded Colombia as a role model of democracy for South America.
If Uribe had been allowed to change the constitution and been elected for a third term, it “would have strengthened a trend begun by [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez , joined by Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and attempted in Honduras by Manuel Zelaya,” the editorial argued.
Chavez, Correa, Morales, and Zelaya all sought to change their nations’ constitutions to increase the power of the presidency.
“Fortunately,” the authors go on, “the court took a different view, perhaps understanding that a third term would have been bad for Colombia, bad for the hemisphere and bad even for Uribe. It would have been a blow – possibly fatal – to the democracy he has done so much to save.”
The Washington Post views the referendum’s defeat in Colombia’s Constitutional Court as a demonstration of the strength of Colombia’s democracy compared to others in the region.
Uribe sought to run for a third term as president, which is prohibited under the Colombian constitution. The Constitutional Court studied the referendum bill proposing that Uribe be allowed to run for his second re-election and found it to be unconstitutional.
The praise from the Washington Post comes amidst growing anxiety in Colombia over the passage of the free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S., which was signed by former U.S. President George W. Bush and Uribe in 2006.
Colombia’s Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata on Tuesday asked the U.S. to “be sincere and tell us if the FTA is going to go ahead or not.”
Last Wednesday, the U.S. announced that it plans to give Colombia a list of suggestions to help the Andean nation resolve concerns about the treatment of organized labor, which are blocking the approval of the FTA.
Plata complained that Colombia has not received any guidance on this issue from the U.S.
The FTA has been stalled in U.S. Congress due to concerns about labor rights, and human rights in general, in Colombia.