Colombia’s president Álvaro Uribe painted a picture of a country that under his rule has seen its security and quality of life improve, though not yet reach their heights, in remarks before the United Nations Wednesday.
Armed with a laundry list of statistics and social statistics, the president argued terrorists were on the run, democracy was strong, and violence against union leaders, journalists and teachers had greatly diminished, according to press reports.
Those who “looked with scepticism on our nation or who spoke of Colombia as a failed state can see the clear signs of our institutional fortitude and democratic audacity,” El Tiempo quoted the president as saying.
“Crimes against citizen security continue diminishing, but we are not satisfied. This year so far, the number of crimes has reduced some 30 percent in relation with the same period last year. We have put emphasis on the protection of union leaders, teachers and journalists,” said Uribe, according to El Espectador.
He drove his point home with a wide array of statistics. Only 36 union-affiliated workers and teachers have been killed this year, and not a single journalist, out of a total 11,204 homicides, he said.
Though between 1991 and 2001 there were only two convictions for union killings, Uribe credited a budget efforts and a pact between workers, employers and the government, among other things, with achieving 199 convictions since then, 134 resulted in prison sentences.
Uribe also claimed that “terrorists organizations” were behind many of the previous killings, a observation that recent reports by union groups or NGOs that follow union-directed violence have not made.
“In the past, terrorist organizations penetrated the worker movement and ended by assassinating workers. The disassembling of the paramilitaries has removed this form of martyrdom, but the guerrilla terrorists persist with these crimes, as occurred not long ago in the south of the country with the assassination of a group of professors by the FARC,” he said, according to El Espectador.
On the subject of terrorists, the president said over two-thirds of the 60,000 terrorists who had “ravaged the country at the start of the Government” in 2002, have turned their back on criminal activity and are taking part in a reintegration program, wrote the UN in its writeup.
But he noted that terrorists continue to be active, pointing to recent incidents such as the murder of a group of teachers and a deadly car bomb attack on the Justice building in the city of Cali, both perpetrated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the UN’s report continued.
Uribe also emphasized Colombia’s “respect for liberties in the midst of the fight against terrorism and, on a note that may have surprised some administration critics, the openness for vigilance” and “criticism and debate at the national and international level,” among others, according to the UN report.
On social issues, he laid out an ambitious plan for development. Among other things, he said he hopes to reduce to three percent the number of undernourished under-5-year-olds and reduce to 17 per 1000 births the under-5-years-old mortality rate, which has already fallen to 20 from 37 during his adminstration, El Tiempo reported.
Additionally, by 2010 he hopes there is 100 percent access to basic education by 2010 and to vaccines by 2015. He also laid out goals for conservation, biofuel use and transportation systems.
“Completion of these millenium goals, fixed for the year 2015, constitute for us a real urgency as an essential part of the construction of social conhesion,”
Moreover, the leader mentioned former FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt, who was freed in a July government operation, and who met with the president in New York in the days before the meeting, as a major government success.
“Today, thanks to the heroism, planning and bloodless effectiveness of our soldiers, she is a symbol of freedom, a freedom that we claim to liberate those that are still kidnapped and to put an end to this shameful crime in our homeland,” he said.