Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Thursday attributed an increase in Colombia’s unemployment rate to the world economic crisis and tensions with neighbor Venezuela.
“Between the years 2003 and 2007, before those two crises which have affected us, we saw a big growth in the economy and a great reduction in unemployment,” Uribe said.
This reduction in unemployment “stalled in the last year and a half, because as well as the international crisis, we were hit very hard by the crisis with Venezuela,” Uribe continued. As an example, the president said that while previously Colombia had exported $6 billion of goods to Venezuela before relations deteriorated in 2009, “this year it will be $1 billion.”
“I think that if had it not been for these two crises, we would have an unemployment rate of 9%,” Uribe said, adding that employment is “inseparable from development.”
Colombia’s unemployment rate reached 12.1% in May of this year, with an estimated 2.6 million Colombians unemployed.
Uribe callled on Colombia to meditate on “the triangle of confidence, which is security with democratic values and liberties. Confidence in investment and social policy go hand in hand.”
Relations between Colombia and Venezuela are notorioulsy fractious, with the socialist nation freezing diplomatic ties with its neighbor after Colombia signed a military pact that grants the U.S. armed forces access to seven military bases around Colombia. Venezuela views the pact as undermining regional sovereignty.
Venezuela has maintained an informal trade ban against its neighboring country and bilateral trade between the two was down 73% in the first quarter of 2010, compared with the same period a year earlier.