Uribe: Democracy fights corruption
Former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez says people's participation in government gives them investment in nation's future at Fox Forum of World Leaders.
by Rick Waters '95
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012
Álvaro Uribe, the 39th president of Colombia from 2002 to 2010, was the third speaker in the Fox Forum of World Leaders. (Photography by Glen E. Ellman)
When Álvaro Uribe Vélez became the 39th president of Colombia in 2002, the country was so gripped with violence, illegal drug trafficking and guerrilla warfare that the death toll reached 68 people per 100,000 population.
By the time he left office in 2010, the nation’s crime rate had dropped by 30 percent.
How did he do it?
“Democracy is the No. 1 means of fighting corruption,” Uribe explained yesterday to an audience of 150 students from TCU and Fort Worth Independent School District at the third installment of the Fox Forum of World Leaders. “The people’s participation, giving them all the possibilities to participate, gave them a means for investment.”
Uribe said his administration focused on a “triangle of cohesion,” based on security, free investment and social partnerships, to reduce drug trade and lower the the South American nation’s poverty rate.
In the last decade, Colombia has seen an estimated drop in illegal cocaine exports from about 1,000 tons to 200 tons, and area cultivated from 400,000 hectares to 60,000 through an incentive plan with farmers.
“We have not won the battle yet, but it has worked,” he said.
Columbia has had to overcome a 200-year history of conflict, which included the Cuban Revolution and the drug trade violence of the 1990s.
“We had no resources despite a population of 47 million people,” Uribe said. “We had obstacles of a high degree of violence and fear of threats from violent people. I personally had 17 attempts on my life.”
Uribe spoke of calls made by his opponents and colleagues to change his rhetoric and policies and said he refused to do so because consistency is vital for a leader. Yet a diplomatic trip to France, in which people demonstrated against him, moved him from rigidity to greater openness.
“You need to be open because of the arguments, not because of the opportunity, not because of the audience,” he said.
Former Mexican president and the forum’s namesake Vicente Fox applauded Uribe’s leadership in harsh times of little cooperation and diplomatic turmoil.
“He is a world leader that never forgot his integrity, his ethics or his capacity to make things happen,” said Fox, who saw Uribe ascend to the presidency during his own administration from 2000 to 2006.
Strong leadership can overcome myriad problems, as Uribe demonstrated in Colombia, Fox said.
“As long as we have heroic aspirations,” Fox said, “as long as we have integrity, ethics and values, we can accomplish the impossible.”
The two ex-presidents answered audience questions on drug legalization, social equality and political corruption following Uribe’s remarks.
Fox described the United States’ war on drugs, which dates to President Nixon, as a miserable failure and called for new discussions among nations to combat the problem.
Uribe agreed, saying that drug policies in Colombia now treat drug users as victims rather than criminals. He said people need opportunities to seek help on their own rather than depending on government solutions.
The forum began with a performance by School of Music faculty, including Director of Orchestral Studies and Colombian native Germán Gutiérrez, who offered a heart-warming welcome to Uribe.
“Thank you so much for what you have done for our country. You have given hope to us of a promising future,” Gutiérrez said.
Uribe is the Fox Forum’s third speaker since it began last November. Other world leaders scheduled to speak at the forum in 2012 include former prime minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar, former president of Poland Lech Walesa and former president and prime minister of Israel Shimon Peres.
From the archives:
First Fox Forum of World Leaders — Vicente Fox - November 2011
Second Fox Forum of World Leaders — Jean Chretien - March 2012
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