Commentary Magazine


Topic: Andres Pastrana Arango

The Man Behind Colombia’s Miracle

Alvaro Uribe is one of the most consequential world leaders of the past decade. He is the man primarily responsible for what I have called the “Colombia Miracle” — the amazing turnaround that has taken his country from being a dysfunctional narco-state to a flourishing democracy where drug dealers and Marxist rebels are on the run, and most of the people live in secure conditions.

But it’s probably just as well that the Colombia Supreme Court barred him from seeking a third term, which would have required amending the constitution. His flirtation with another term could have damaged his reputation and led to comparisons with the odious Hugo Chavez, who was freely elected in next-door Venezuela but has remained in office via extra-constitutional means. It is to Uribe’s credit, though hardly surprising given his impressive character and track record, that he has embraced the Supreme Court decision and promised to abide by it.

Now it appears likely that his legacy will be carried on by his former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, who is as committed as Uribe to his policy of “democratic security.” It remains to be seen whether Santos will be as effective as Uribe; but even if he isn’t, it probably won’t be a disaster because conditions have improved so much since Uribe took office in 2002 from the inept appeaser Andres Pastrana Arango.

It would be nice if an important job could be found for Uribe on the international stage. Imagine him, for example, as United Nations secretary-general. But that is a pipe dream because he is far too pro-American to ever win favor in that sector. Regardless of what he does next, he deserves recognition for his inspiring achievements. He deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, because he has actually brought peace to much of his country.

Alvaro Uribe is one of the most consequential world leaders of the past decade. He is the man primarily responsible for what I have called the “Colombia Miracle” — the amazing turnaround that has taken his country from being a dysfunctional narco-state to a flourishing democracy where drug dealers and Marxist rebels are on the run, and most of the people live in secure conditions.

But it’s probably just as well that the Colombia Supreme Court barred him from seeking a third term, which would have required amending the constitution. His flirtation with another term could have damaged his reputation and led to comparisons with the odious Hugo Chavez, who was freely elected in next-door Venezuela but has remained in office via extra-constitutional means. It is to Uribe’s credit, though hardly surprising given his impressive character and track record, that he has embraced the Supreme Court decision and promised to abide by it.

Now it appears likely that his legacy will be carried on by his former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, who is as committed as Uribe to his policy of “democratic security.” It remains to be seen whether Santos will be as effective as Uribe; but even if he isn’t, it probably won’t be a disaster because conditions have improved so much since Uribe took office in 2002 from the inept appeaser Andres Pastrana Arango.

It would be nice if an important job could be found for Uribe on the international stage. Imagine him, for example, as United Nations secretary-general. But that is a pipe dream because he is far too pro-American to ever win favor in that sector. Regardless of what he does next, he deserves recognition for his inspiring achievements. He deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, because he has actually brought peace to much of his country.

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