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Ex-Colombian President Uribe’s arrival to SFS sparks protests

On Wednesday afternoon, Georgetown students, faculty, and local human rights activists gathered in Red Square to protest the hiring of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.

Georgetown hired Uribe this summer as a Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership in the School of Foreign Service. The group said that Uribe, who will begin teaching classes this week, had a poor human rights record while he was president of Colombia and is unfit to teach at Georgetown.

Protesters gathered in Red Square to publicize Uribe's human rights abuses.

“On what basis was this man appointed to Georgetown?” Mark Lance, director of Georgetown’s Peace Studies Program, asked the group of about fifty protestors and onlookers. “He’s not a scholar of anything. … This is a man who shows contempt for the very idea of human rights work.”

Nico Udu-gama, a member of the D.C.-based School of the Americas Watch who was at the protest, said there were numerous humans rights abuses during Uribe’s eight-year presidency, including the displacement of roughly three million citizens, and the deaths of union leaders and journalists. His group had intended for the rally to coincide directly with Uribe’s arrival on campus, but he said that the University refused to disclose the details of Uribe’s arrival.

Few Georgetown undergraduates were present in Red Square on Wednesday, but SOA Watch member Laura Gonzalez was handing out flyers and trying to sign up students who passed by for email lists.

Some passers-by, however, said that they thought the protestors were misrepresenting Uribe’s legacy as president and underestimating his potential value as a professor.

“We’re very fortunate to have him,” Andrea Pradilla (MSFS ‘11) said. “The majority of people are very excited and looking forward to welcoming him here.”

“There’s a lot to be learned [from Uribe],” Robert Wood, a first-year graduate student in the Center for Latin American Studies, said. “No matter which Latin American president, from any political position, there’s still a lot to be learned.”

The coalition of protesters plan to hold similar protests on Thursday morning at Uribe’s first class in the Car Barn and that afternoon at the Mortara Center during the lecture he will give there. They will continue to hold protests for the remainder of the semester, they said, while the former Colombian President teaches two two-week blocks of classes.

One protester, Monica Gonzalez (MSFS ’11) said that the coalition has discussed offering alternative classes and organizing film showings.

“As long as we have supporters and as long as he has classes, we’ll continue,” she said.

Several protestors said that Uribe’s human rights record puts him at odds with the University’s Jesuit identity and dedication to social justice.

Gonzalez noted that last November, the University had commemorated the 1992 assassination of six Jesuit activists working in opposition to the U.S.-backed El Salvador regime. For activists like Gonzalez, the University is sending mixed messages about its commitment to human rights.

“I feel very strongly about the matter. Uribe is a killer,” David Bow, a professor of anthropology and development at George Washington University, said. “I think Georgetown should be embarrassed. I hope students can organize, make a lot of noise and bring attention to the authorities.”

Julie Green Bataille from the Office of Communications said that Uribe’s experience in dealing with difficult issues will allow SFS students to gain a better understanding of international affairs.

“Georgetown is not endorsing the political views or government policies enacted by an individual, but realizing the value in allowing a world leader’s experience to be part of campus dialogue,” Bataille wrote.

School of Foreign Service Dean Carol Lancaster declined to comment about the protest.



17 comments on “Ex-Colombian President Uribe’s arrival to SFS sparks protests
  1. Pingback: Vox Populi » Uribe appointment under attack from human rights groups

  2. Carlo on said:

    I don’t think the people protesting truly understand the situation Colombia lived for the last 40 years. It is very simple for people to criticize a circumstance when they are strangers and completely ignorant about it. Uribe did not displace 3 million people. Uribe did not murder union leaders and journalists. Uribe did not massacre thousands of Colombians. Uribe did not incinerate 14 courageous policemen last week. Uribe did not set bombs in the cities and towns of Colombia. If you want to blame and protest against somebody for all those atrocities, then do it against the FARC. However, the protesters do not seem to know who the FARC are, because if they knew they wouldn’t be acting on such stupidity. I will teach you what Uribe did. He gained control of the country again, he increased foreign investment and developed the economy, he fought the FARC and reduced them by about 12,000 men and he accomplished the demobilization of the paramilitaries. I would like to ask Professor Mark Lance, whether he would have the capacity to do the greatness and goodness that Mr. Uribe did for more than 40 million Colombians? I doubt it. What would a PhD who specialized in the philosophy of language, epistemology, philosophical logic and metaphysics, have to say about turning an almost failed state into a productive nation? However, you are right on one issue Professor; Uribe might not be a “scholar,” because he exceeds the definition of that word. He is an authority in politics, conflict resolution, and international commerce, proven by the accomplishments many could not dream of doing. Finally, it is Mr. David Bow who should be ashamed for making those absurd and extremely unreasonable comments. Yet again, it is not his fault, for now anyone can obtain a PhD.

  3. Thank you Carlo. It makes me happy to know that “more than 40 million Colombians” have you to represent their interests online and voice their support for Alvaro Uribe. I am sure that the victims of the “false positives” (not to mention the thousands of other victims of Uribe’s “democratic security” policies) will thank you for it too.

  4. Carlo on said:

    Ed, thank you for your comment. Alvaro Uribe left office with an approval rating of 75%. I believe I can voice the support of that 75%. Furthermore, I used to live in Colombia, and I can state from personal experience that even the people who disagreed with Uribe, where pleased with his success in the ‘democratic security’ policies. I will remind you that before Uribe took office, one could not travel by car more than one hour from Bogotá, before being retained by the guerrillas or the AUC. That changed after Uribe’s 8 years in office. You may travel more than 20 hours and safely arrive at your destination. The vast majority of “victims” of the ‘democratic security’ policies were ruthless narcoterrorists. And for your information the ‘false positives’ were not state/federal policies, but crimes committed by a number of low and medium ranking soldiers who wanted army benefits. I will remind you again, that those crimes were investigated by the Attorney General’s office and the guilty were imprisoned.

  5. Ral Pasteur on said:

    I agree with the anthropologist’s view. This guy should be better somewhere else.

  6. Having Uribe lecturing at Georgetown is an offense for any Colombian citizen and students attending Georgetown. I had the misfortune to suffer his Democratic dictatorship until 2008. He’s the master of corruption. He kicked out millions of farmers from their own property. They left in order to stay alive and become beggars in Bogota and many other cities. He took their land and gave it to paramilitary families to plant Palm trees for production of Bio-diesel. In addition he gave subsidies for millions of dollars to many members of each family involved. The unemployment raises but he relaxed the stats to look good before the world bank. He is a drug lord and he used his position on the best interest of his pockets, violating the constitution and the rights of Colombian people. He must be taken to court for crimes against humanity. He does not believe in property rights and free speech. I hope he won’t treat Georgetown students ans he treated Colombian people in 8 years. His organization kidnapped more than 40.000 civilians and killed them to make them look like casualties (false positives. If you ask me about him I will be telling you his crimes for many hours.

  7. by the way he gained his elections using his paramilitary army to push citizens to vote for him in the country side. It is hard to say no when a bunch of guys are pointing you with a AK-47. The office “Defensoria del Pueblo” received thousands of reports and these officers burned all of them. But still many people has copies of these reports in Colombia and they are willing to hand them as prove when he will be in a court.

  8. Digna on said:

    Fuera Uribe my priviledged white rear-end!

    http://www.uribe-georgetown.org can kiss my butt.

    For all those people who say that Uribe made Colombia safer… well, their right. He made it safer for the rich to enjoy their wealth, he made it much safer for foreign investment, he made it much safer for a few families to get wealthier.

    That’s all very true.

    We have to THANK Uribe for calling union workers as they really are – TERRORISTS – because my family in Mirador del Norte can now safely have workers who don’t complain about their stupid wages and working conditions, and will just pick the bananas so I can attend Georgetown.

    As for all those students at the National University of Colombia, they should be happy that Uribe cut spending there and wanted to privatize it. The bathrooms were SO dirty there. Maybe now the poor students can get a job cleaning the bathrooms there. It’s not like a child of a campesino was destined to be much more in my country.

    I think we need to thank Uribe for creating paramilitary units, because I for one would rather have the largest mass grave in Latin America in my country than have a bunch of lazy farmers complaining that they HAVE to grow coca because they don’t have roads and infrastructure to get their yucca and corn to the market.

    Fuck, I prefer the cocaine I can sniff here at school to that boiled, nasty-ass Santanderean yucca.

    Thank you Uribe

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  10. I don’t think this debate is about Uribe’s politics, it’s about his human rights record, pure and simple. Perhaps Colombia is safer, but for who, and at what cost? In many debates with Uribe supporters, I’ve been surprised to find that rather denying the facts (huge increase in extrajudicial executions, false positives, illegal wiretapping, the secret service passing hit lists to the paramilitaries, hiring paramilitaries to do the state’s dirty work), they say “he did what he had to do.” Really? If people want to defend his human rights abuses, saying that all of these crimes were justified, do so openly. And then we can talk about whether or not it was “worth it.” Anyway, check out http://www.uribe-georgetown.org.

  11. Carlos on said:

    I just have one thing to say to all those who criticize Uribe without any knowledge of the problem that’s been going on in Colombia for over 40 years. That’s the way FARC, ELN, and other terrorist entities initiated! You stupid little brain people are eager to support human rights against the president, military, and nation that stands against the terrorist. Those groups have killed thousands of innocent people, farmers, children, and women. They don’t care who they are aiming at, can be a priest, politician, civilian, they just do it and enjoy doing it. You freaking terrorist can go to the jungle and join FARC so that the army can go and shoot you right in the middle of your eyes.

  12. Calandria on said:

    This guy Carlos is the prime example of Uribe’s legacy; a brainwashed society, polarized and full of hate. As his master, Carlos is using the well known strategy of dictators: who dares to say the opposite, should be dead. This is just a small example of what people who have critical thinking has to endured every day in Colombia. Would you call that be free and safe? Yes, I know the situation in Colombia before and after Uribe, and the decomposition is generalized; he left as a much worst country (with the exception of the people being able to go to their cottages, protected by the army, and for some, by their private one). It is just a disgrace that a supposedly respectable University is willing to invite Uribe as a professor; they might as well invite Idi Amin to enrich the alumni with his knowledge.

  13. Carlos on said:

    Yeah Calandria, when it comes to Colombia everyone knows the truth, right? But which truth I wonder, the one portrayed by Hollywood? I bet you haven’t even actually set foot in Colombia. But here are some FACTS during the Uribe presidency for those who think to know the situation:
    Reduced murder in Colombia by 50%
    Reduced kidnapping by almost 80%
    Improved the economy of the nation
    Extradited many drug lords to US to receive justice
    Weaken terrorist groups like FARC (maybe this is why he is hated for very few people, who may be supporters of these groups)
    Uribe achieved all in a country that was horrible violence for decades and no one could even go out of the main cities without being stopped by guerrillas.

  14. david on said:

    Ask Uribe about his “health reform” that required people to use their retiring savings to pay for their health care, favoring private health care providers, luckily people gathered through facebook and protested in the cities; he wants to privatize everything in Colombia, instead of investing on better processes and technology for public companies. In Colombia, Union leaders and Community leaders are killed constantly (more than 40 this 2010 year); being a leader in Colombia is a risk; what about the “chuzadas”, where the opposition and the supreme court were illegally wired tapped; as a result, Uribe’s General Secretary, Bernardo Morenos won’t be able to run for public office for the next 18 years, and now they are investigating Uribe. “a lot worse than watergate”; for Uribe, all NGOs are members of the guerrilla (read the letter sent by the president of Human Rights Watch to President Obama, referring to Uribe and NGOs), and as a result, ONGs members are being targeted by paramilitars such as the “Black Eagles” former AUC members. Most Colombians think that by selling all natural resources “we” are in the path of development, but that goes against the principles of Sustainability, which declare that we should not undermine the opportunity for future generations to fulfill their needs. What will we we do when all fuels are sold? not even mentioning all the corruption that has been stealing all the royalties given by multinationals, which are not even monitored.
    ask him about “Agro ingreso seguro”: agricultural subsides that were given to beauty queens, rich farmers that even divided their land to get more subsides and even narco-traffickers that have been extradited to the U.S., Uribes’ former Minister of Agriculture Andres Felipe Arias is being investigated for giving these subsides to people that already had resources,instead of giving them to poor farmers in need of irrigation and technology.
    Someone wrote here that the murderers of the “false positives” (poor, young Colombians who were killed, and dressed in guerrilla uniforms, so the colombian armi could show “results” ) were investigated, well let me tell you that most of those killings are still in impunity,, I welcome all of you to read the facts.

  15. Monica on said:

    Look, I know that you guys are all upset about Uribe’s “lack of respect for human rights”, but that doesn’t mean you guys have to protest his being there. I mean, I don’t like what Obama has done for the country, but if he were lecturing at my school, I’d go to the lectures and try to learn something. Even if you’re looking at everything he’s doing as wrong, then at least you’ll in your mind learn what you shouldn’t do. I’m a Colombian citizen, and I lived in Colombia before Uribe’s time, and I had to leave Colombia with my family because jobs were not available and it just wast safe anymore. We’re now looking to go back, because of all that Uribe has done for the country. I realize that some of the methods he used weren’t… perhaps the best he could have used. But who else is finding ways to erase FARC from society in a humane way. Maybe it’s because you haven’t had to live through what us Colombians had to go through, but what if Al Queda was residing in this country instead of in Afghanistan? What if the only way to get rid of Al Queda was to take farmers from the great plains out of their homes and situate them in bigger cities? That’s the problem with most of the people in this country. You judge the way others do things without considering all the facts as if you were in those people’s shoes. You may try to look at the good that it’s doing and the bad that it’s doing, but you’re not looking at it the way that someone living through it might see things. There’s no need for you to protest Uribe’s being on the Georgetown campus because he’s not there to make you guys into the “brainwashed pupils” you think all Colombians are.
    On a side note, while I appreciate this Carlos guy’s efforts being on Uribe’s side, you don’t need to threaten people to get them to see things your way. That actually accomplishes the complete opposite.

  16. HoyaLawya on said:

    These protestors are just the flip side to the Tea Party birthers. Just because you can footnote a few sentences according to bluebook rules, it doesn’t mean your argument should be considered with any weight. Frankly, I doubt I’m in the minority when I file everything from these protestors under W, for Whining.

    Honestly, why is Mark Lance still at Georgetown? If this guy has his way, Georgetown would become a joke, lacking all credibility among peer institutions, alumni donors, and Fortune 500 employers. The board of directors needs to keep tabs on this guy (if not already) before the school gets seriously embarrassed.

    Thank god most of these protesting whiners will either be jobless or dead ending with a gig at Barnes & Noble, after graduation. The rest become Mark Lance – oh joy.

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