Colombian President Alvaro Uribe defended his government against damning criticisms from prominent Colombian journalists, academics and politcal analysts at an unprecedented live debate in Bogota on Wednesday.
During the debate at Jorge Tadeo Lozano University, Uribe defended the controversial military pact with the U.S. which allows the North American nation access to seven Colombian military bases.
“I think there has been a political tendency in the region to oppose any agreement of this nature. And I think that the problem that some countries have with Colombia… isn’t because of the cooperation agreement with the United States,” Uribe said, adding that some countries in Latin America “are annoyed that Colombia’s independence is so successful.”
“It’s not the agreement of security cooperation with the United States [that’s the issue] but rather a difference in political models, and our model has characteristics that many on this continent don’t like, such as respect for personal liberty and political freedom,” said the Colombian head of state.
“At the end of the day, what is in dispute is the Colombian political model, and the agreement with the United States is just an excuse to criticize.”
Colombian journalist Claudia Lopez asked Uribe to respond to the fact that of the 18 politicans convicted of ties to paramilitaries, 17 were from his government.
Uribe claimed his government was unaware of “parapolitics,” citing as an example that when he named Fabio Valencia as Interior and Justice Minister, he was unaware that Valencia’s brother former Medellin District Attorney Guillermo Valencia was involved with the paramilitary.
Uribe also defended his selection of Jorge Noguera as director of national security agency DAS. The former director is currently on trial for his involvement in the illegal wire-tapping of Colombia politicians, journalists and trade unionists, and for handing the information obtained to the paramilitaries.