As the handover of power from outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to President-elect Juan Manuel Santos draws closer, a U.S. analyst likens the transition to that between former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. at the end of the 1980s.
Eric Farnsworth, the vice president of the Council of the Americas – a U.S. business organization whose stated goal is promoting free trade, democracy and open markets in the Americas – told Colombia Reports that he believes that Santos does not represent as much of a continuation of “Uribismo,” as some people may expect.
Farnsworth likens the Uribe-Santos transition of power to that of the Reagan-Bush transition in 1989, “when many people said that Bush would be a continuation of Reagan, that he would continue with Reagan’s agenda,” because both presidents came from the Republican Party.
“However it became clear that Bush’s agenda was different, that he didn’t just represent a third term of the original president… in some ways the transition was quite different and I think that’s what’s going on in Colombia,” Farnsworth said.
“Santos has an independent profile, he’s spent years as a public figure… I’ve met both of them, and anyone painting him as Uribe’s clone is just wrong,” Farnsworth said. He added that he does not believe that the Uribe administration’s allegations of a FARC–ELN presence in Venezuela before the Organization of American States (OAS), are a bid on the part of the outgoing president to undermine his successor.
Colombia’s recent claim that Venezuela is harboring guerrillas sparked speculation in both Colombian and international media about tensions between Santos and Uribe over relations with Caracas. Santos was quick to deny suggestions of a rift with his mentor Uribe.
According to Farnsworth, Uribe is simply using the opportunity to put Colombia’s evidence of a guerrilla presence in Venezuela on the record, in the hope of getting a reaction and recognition from the international community of a situation that Colombia has long suspected.
Chavez’s repeated claims of an Uribe-Santos rift are an attempt by the socialist leader to turn Colombia’s allegations to his advantage before Venezuela’s mid-term elections scheduled for September, according to Farnsworth.
“It’s the tried and true technique… a leader finds an external bogeyman and claims his country is under attack” in order to distract from internal problems, Farnsworth said.
Santos was Uribe’s defense minister in the second half of the former’s presidency. He resigned in 2009 in order to leave the way open to be able to run for president, in the event that a referendum seeking the third term re-election of Uribe did not pass.
When Colombia’s Constitutional Court found the referendum to be “entirely unconstitutional,” meaning that Uribe was barred from running for a third term in office, “Uribistas” put Santos up for the presidency instead.
Santos leads the Partido de la U, a coalition formed to support Uribe in Congress. The former defense minister was elected president on June 20. He will assume office on August 7.