Uribe Velez, Alvaro


Uribe Velez, Alvaro
▪ 2003

      On Aug. 7, 2002, the day that Álvaro Uribe Vélez formally took office as president of Colombia, explosions rocked the centre of the nation's capital, Bogotá. Just blocks from the site of Uribe's inauguration ceremony, bombs claimed the lives of 19 persons and injured at least 60. Although no one claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group. The attack came on the heels of Uribe's announcement that his government would negotiate with armed groups only after they had abandoned “terrorist” activities and ceased hostilities. Soon after his inauguration, Uribe declared a state of emergency and invoked powers to expand the nation's military and police forces.

      In his campaign for president, Uribe had split from the traditionally dominant Liberal Party and run as an independent. He established the Colombia First electoral movement and adopted the campaign slogan “Firm Hand, Big Heart.” Uribe promised a tougher line against guerrillas, paramilitaries, and drug traffickers after the failure of the previous administration to negotiate a settlement with any of these armed groups. He also stressed the need for sweeping political reforms to make the government more efficient and to reduce corruption. The success of his campaign strategy garnered him 53.1% of the votes cast when Colombians went to the polls on May 26.

      Uribe was born in Medellín, Colom., on July 4, 1952. He earned a law degree from the University of Antioquia, Medellín, and later studied management and administration in the U.S. at Harvard University. In the mid-1970s he worked in the state government of Antioquia before serving as secretary-general in the Ministry of Labour in Medellín and as a director of civil aeronautics at the national level. He was mayor of Medellín from 1982 to 1984. During this time his father, a cattle rancher, was slain by FARC guerrillas during a botched kidnapping. Uribe served consecutive terms as a national senator between 1986 and 1994 and was governor of Antioquia from 1995 to 1997.

      As president, Uribe promised to keep bureaucracy in check and to run an austere administration. He made clear his intent to reduce the number of government ministries, and he nominated a single minister of justice and interior—a de facto merging of the two entities. He also proposed eliminating several posts at the state and local levels. On his first day in office, he sent to Congress a large package of proposals, including the establishment of a single legislative chamber, the use of roll-call vote procedures to make decision making transparent, the elimination of “substitute” legislators, reform of congressional resources and financial management, a list of reasons for which legislators could be removed from office, and a process by which early elections could be called. His ambitious proposals were sure to strain the postelectoral congressional coalition, and his success would be dependent on his continued public popularity.

Brian F. Crisp

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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