Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday denied accusations that the government is providing free housing to the poor as a cynical vote-buying tactic ahead of the 2014 presidential elections.
“Some of the government’s critics say the president is politicking because he is delivering homes. Well I say if you don’t like the soup, here’s two helpings, because we are going to continue to deliver houses. We are going to continue to deliver water, we are going to continue to deliver highways and [public] works to improve the lives of Colombian people,” said Santos at the inauguration of a free housing program in Cartagena.
The emphatic defense the president made for his government’s housing and public works program was likely a thinly veiled response to former president Alvaro Uribe‘s inference on Tuesday that Santos was breaking the law.
Santos on Monday said that he and the country’s minister of housing, German Vargas Lleras, would have to soon discuss the latter’s political future — whether the charismatic minister would run against Santos in 2014 or whether “they would continue building houses together.”
Former president and staunch Santos critic, Alvaro Uribe, took the president’s comments differently. In Uribe’s mind, it was an admission that the government’s public housing project was just a ploy to get reelected, and possibly a violation of the law.
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) January 22, 2013
BACKGROUND: Santos vs Uribe
Santos continued to defend his government’s choices by stating that from his first day in office his priority has been to meet the basic needs of Colombian citizens.
“Many people do not have access to water, electricity, education, health, so we have — from my first day in government — made it a priority to do everything in my power to ensure that the basic needs of the majority of Colombians are satisfied,” said the president.
“We are producing results, the houses are coming, the roads and bridges are coming, the schools are being built, and so we are not going to stop,” promised Santos.
The comments came in the wake of the president’s announcement on Monday that $959 million has been allocated to build the final 25,000 out of 100,000 homes for Colombia‘s poor.