Despite the scandals that have plagued his leadership, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s popularity remains high as his term comes to an end due to his success in improving security conditions in the country, which was previously in a state of “chronic insecurity and violence,” according to a Colombian conservative think tank.
The director of the Security and Democracy Foundation, Alfredo Rangel, attributes the “overwhelming support of the population” for their president to the success of Uribe’s policy of “democratic security,” Caracol TV reported Friday.
“The democratic security is a policy of the state, and for the first time ever in Colombia, it was a priority of the government,” Rangel said.
With only three months of his eight year rule left, Uribe’s approval rating of 70% is uncharacteristically high, given the human rights abuses committed by the Colombian military in its war against leftist rebels, and the allegations of government sanctioned spying on Colombian politicians, judges, journalists and human rights workers by security agency DAS.
By professionalizing and strengthening the country’s security forces, Uribe has dealt serious blows against Colombian insurgent groups, in addition to demobilizing the right-wing paramilitary the AUC, Rangel said.
During Uribe’s leadership, Rangel noted, the FARC guerrilla population has dropped from 18,000 to 6,000; the ELN, another leftist rebel group, fell to a fifth of its original size, now struggling with merely 500 fighters; and 31,000 paramilitary fighters demobilized.
Throughout the course of Uribe’s administration, the government has regained control of Colombian cities and the major highways that connect different areas of the country, pushing the internal conflict further and further into more isolated regions, notes Caracol TV.
In regards to the drug trade, “Colombia, which used to produce 90% of the world’s cocaine, now produces only 50%,” Rangel said.
The success of Uribe’s democratic security policy, however, has come at a cost to the country, Rangel acknowledged.
Uribe’s downfalls have been the failure to establish strong state presence in border regions, failures of the justice system, extrajudicial killings of civilians by the military, and illegal domestic spying by intelligence services, according to Rangel.
A security and public policy expert at Colombia’s National University, Alejo Vargas, agreed with Rangel. Vargas noted that Uribe’s successor will be left with a country with “strengthened armed forces, in terms of numbers and capacity, but one which is highly questioned in regards to its serious violations of human rights.”
Part of Uribe’s legacy will be as a leader that “cornered and discredited the FARC, but also [created] a highly polarized society,” Vargas said.
The winner of Colombia’s presidential elections will inherit a country with increasd levels of security, but struggling to overcome the cost of achieving those security gains; 2.4 million people displaced since 2002, and thousands of innocent civilians murdered by the military in cold blood, according to Colombian human rights NGO Codhes.