Duque’s controversial praise follows months of polarization and an apparent radicalization of the “uribistas” whose “unique leader” is investigated by the Supreme Court for allegedly forming far-right death squads.
“I feel proud to be on this stage with the Great Colombian, the eternal president we love, Alvaro Uribe,” Duque told an enthusiastic crowd in Medellin.
The video was shot on March 3 already, but did not go viral until last week.
Historian Antonio Caballero warned last year about the growing cult of personality centered around Uribe after far-right former Interior Minister Fernando Londoño said his former chief was “the president of yesterday, today and of always.”
They did not honor Stalin like this in the Soviet Union, or Mao Zedong in China, or Baby Doc in Haiti. Only Hugo Chavez, whom the Venezuelan “Maduristas” call the Eternal Commander, and Kim il Sung, Eternal President of the Republic of North Korea, have held the title, as I recall, when they were already dead. Uribe has been proclaimed eternal in life.
Uribe’s most powerful political rival, social democratic presidential candidate Gustavo Petro, accused Duque of using similar tactics as authoritarian Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
“What kind of president would Ivan Duque be? A puppet?” the runner-up in the election race rhetorically asked a crowd this week.
According to Petro, Uribe “is using the tricks of a dictator” to recover the power he lost after leaving the presidential palace in 2010.
The “uribistas” were already under pressure after Duque proposed to reform the justice system that is investigating alleged war crimes and obstruction of justice by the former president.
Duque’s “eternal president” remarked fueled concerns about the hard right’s attempts to undermine democracy.
Democratic Center politicians have incited violence against leftist candidates on several occasions, and have allegedly engaged in vote-buying.
Uribe fueled suspicions he hired disgraced political propaganda firm Cambridge Analytics in ongoing attempts to sink a peace process with Marxist FARC guerrillas.
In spite of having left office almost eight years ago, the former president continues to exercise significant political power and enjoys the support of a significant conservative majority in Colombia.
Uribe, however, is also confronted with increased opposition after a series of scandals over mass human rights violations, abuse of power by his administration, and his family’s ties to the Medellin Cartel and paramilitary death squads.