Former President Álvaro Uribe is on a Twitter tirade claiming his successor Juan Manuel Santos has not lived up to 2010 campaign pledges. Not only is this false, but the former President is conveniently forgetting many promises he broke himself.
In fact, his failures to observe and fulfill his own proposed objectives are too numerous and remarkable to forget. They are so numerous that they wouldn’t fit in one op-ed.
This is Part Three and Four of a series that compares (a) the promises Uribe made before the 2002 elections and the discourse held during his presidency and (b) what transpired.
Broken Promises #3 and #4: Preventing forced displacement and facilitating the return of forcefully displaced people
The Uribe administration failed in preventing forced displacement and facilitating the return of forcefully displaced people, which were two of the Democratic Security and Defense Policy’s main objectives.
Through the end of Uribe’s tenure, 4.9-million Colombians—over 10 percent of the country’s population and 19 percent of the world’s internal refugees—had been forcibly displaced in 25 years, making it the second worst case in the world after the Sudan crisis. According to Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), during Uribe’s eight years in office alone, 2002 to 2010, 2.4 million Colombians were displaced. In short: more persons were displaced during the exercise of Uribe’s policy and at a faster rate.
In September of 2010, according to Constitutional Court Magistrate Luis Ernesto Vargas, the vast displacement occurred not only because of the armed conflict, but also because the number of mega projects handed out by the Uribe administration—part of Uribe’s “Virtuous Circle” of investment —to multi-nationals and corporations without first consulting local populations, such as the indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.
The objectives for the forcible displacement of persons in Colombia has not only been of geo-strategic value for military purposes—for the armed forces, guerrillas, neo-paramilitaries, BACRIM—but have also been politically and economically motivated. Human rights organizations allege that millions of hectares were appropriated illegally during Uribe’s two presidencies, whereby land was taken, its resources exploited, and its fruits entered as products into the global market.
The cultivation of African palm oil, for example, made Colombia the second largest producer of the product in the world while Uribe was in power. But what exactly was the cost for such high global standing? Jorge Rojas, director of CODHES, claimed there was a direct correlation between the industry and displacement: “In almost every case where there is a big palm-oil development, there is widespread forced displacement.”
However, despite the United Nations and numerous human rights groups denouncing Colombian biofuel because its production was directly connected with the systematic and widespread violations of human rights, the Uribe administration continued its public bewitchment of intellect by claiming, like his Agriculture Minister Andres Fernandez did in 2009, the following: “I think that that is just a fallacy disseminated by people who don’t believe in biofuels.”
As with other human rights violation accusations against the government, the administration found a way to sidestep taking the issue seriously and denounced those who held such opposing views against government policy as terrorists, terrorist sympathizers, or rumor generators who wanted the government to fail and did not believe in its democracy. But who could sincerely believe in its democratic policy when the government rejected there was an actual problem?
The dire refugee situation was overly neglected by both Uribe administrations. In July of 2008, for example, Uribe’s former adviser, Jose Obdulio Gaviria, claimed there was no refugee or internal displacement in Colombia, but, instead, many migrant workers.
Wouldn’t it be nearly impossible to prevent forced displacement and facilitate the return of refugees—two of the main objectives of Uribe’s Democratic Security and Defense Policy—if the state denied such persons existed? It should be no surprise that forced displacement rose rapidly while mega projects also increased between 2002 and 2010. I highly doubt many of the 2.4 million Colombians forcibly displaced for their lands during this period would find anything worth noting as “virtuous” about this investment strategy.
Julián Esteban Torres López is an editor, writer, researcher, and educator with nearly two decades’ experience working with publications, historical societies, and cultural and research institutions, and has held leadership positions in the academe, the arts, journals, the business sector, and history museums. You can follow him on Twitter.