By Richard A. James, Research Intern, Center for Strategic Research
The former president of Colombia, Dr. Alvaro Uribe Velez recently addressed a group of distinguished military and civilian defense leaders from the United States and Latin America at the National Defense University. His speech, “Democratic Security and Leadership,” outlined some of the steps his administration took to combat challenges to the Colombian government’s control over its territory. After eight years, a nation once overwhelmed by violence, corruption, and insecurity is now a thriving and proud example of effective political leadership and national determination.
President Uribe outlined the three pillars of his policy: 1) democratic security, 2) investor confidence, and 3) social cohesion. He argued that to implement his policy it was necessary for him to micro-manage the government’s activities while keeping an eye on the macro-level international horizon and strengthen domestic legitimacy by stressing responsibility, integrity, and consistency.
His first priority was to restore security. He declared that “without security you cannot have social development or investment.” This was not possible without strengthening the nation’s capability to react to adversaries, regain control over territory, and create positive momentum. He also sought to improve the investment atmosphere in three aspects: physical security (reducing the number of kidnappings, murders, etc.), legal security (ensuring guarantees of the rule of law), and political security (avoiding expropriations of foreign companies).
Uribe became a wartime president commanding the nation’s military forces against guerrilla groups and paramilitaries. His administration sought the support of the Colombian people to ensure public safety and build social cohesion. He maintained the “people’s coalition” by vigorously addressing human rights violations and rewarding citizens who provided valuable intelligence that led to military action against the FARC and other armed groups. He ensured that corruption was exposed wherever it was found. Once a case could be made against an official or individual, the information was made public in order to destroy the power of impunity provided by anonymity and secrecy. The high level of government transparency leveraged the trust of the Colombian people and wore down the machine of corruption and lawlessness.
The will of the people was the deciding factor, a point which is not to be undervalued. Uribe stated that “what’s most important is the will to do things – determination – even if you do not get all the results you want – determination is the major engine of confidence.”
President Uribe congratulated Mexican President Felipe Calderon for recognizing his country’s problem and having begun the fight against drug cartels. In Mexico’s situation, the Calderon administration is steadfastly tackling the challenges it faces and promoting democratic legitimacy, transparency, and human rights. The Mexican military is a capable force that maintains the respect and trust of citizens. But to unlock the door of stability, Mexico must answer one question: Do Mexicans and their government have the will to take up this fight and stand up to the violence, bloodshed, and fear posed by ruthless drug cartels and organized crime syndicates?