Center for American Progress to Host Colombian President Under Murder Cloud

On May 2, the Center for American Progress (CAP) Americas' Project will host Colombian president Alvaro Uribe at a Washington forum entitled "Colombia & the United States at a Crossroads." Uribe, who is President Bush's closest ally in the region, is under a cloud after several of his top officials resigned when evidence emerged that they had close ties to right wing paramilitary groups responsible for thousands of murders and assassinations during Colombia's decades-long civil war. Uribe has also been accused of hosting right wing death squad planning meetings on his ranch in the 1980's. In reaction to the scandal, Uribe has lashed out at opponents and even admitted that he's put opposition Colombian politicians who met with Democrats in Washington under government surveillance. Finally, Colombia remains the number one source of cocaine - and the fifth largest recipient of U.S. overseas aid - despite its poor performance countering narco-trafficking. Indeed, the Bush administration just admitted that its much-vaunted "Plan Colombia" has done nothing to stanch the supply of high quality blow to America.

Despite those black marks against him, he's hoping to win a free trade agreement with the United States that would give Colombian products preferential treatment. So why is the Center for American Progress (headed by former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta) giving a forum to someone so closely affiliated with Bush-style repression, corruption and failure? Normally, I might say it sends a bad signal of support for a brutal, right wing leader. But it actually seems like this event will provide one of the few opportunities for Uribe's critics to question him directly. And Uribe isn't likely to get many softball questions: Center for American Progress Americas Project director Dan Restrepo has been very critical of Uribe's ties to right wing paramilitary groups and his sycophancy towards Bush.

Journalists and audience members will also have the opportunity to grill Uribe - an opportunity Colombians don't often get. In addition to questions about his human rights record, the dangers to Colombia and the United States of a free trade agreement, and his narco-trafficking failures, I hope Uribe will face tough questions about his government's support for expanded ethanol development. Big-time farmers and ranchers like Uribe are rapidly cutting down Colombia's fragile rain forests to grow sugar and soybeans to fuel the ethanol boom (coca farmers are also continuing to fuel rainforest destruction even though Colombia is the only South American country to allow aerial pesticide spraying of coca leaves).

Colombia & the United States at a Crossroads: A Conversation with President Alvaro Uribe
May 2, 2007, 1:00pm - 2:30pm

RSVP required for attendance.

In the coming weeks and months, the United States Congress faces decisions on the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement and the future of support for the fifth largest recipient of U.S. assistance in the world. Recent developments in Colombia, one of the longest-standing allies of the United States in the Americas, including the on-going investigation into ties between paramilitary organizations and sectors of Colombia's governing class have raised questions regarding the future direction of U.S. policy toward Colombia. In a spirit of open communication, The Americas Project at the Center for American Progress is pleased to host a conversation with His Excellency Alvaro Uribe, President of Colombia, about these and other issues that shape the relationship between two of the most closely interconnected countries in the Americas.

Location
Center for American Progress
1333 H St. NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
Map & Directions

Nearest Metro: Blue/Orange Line to McPherson Square or Red Line to Metro Center

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Biographies
Alvaro Uribe was re-elected President of the Republic of Colombia, May 28, 2006 with 7,363,421 votes constituting 62 percent of the vote.

President Uribe was born July 4, 1952 in Medellin, capital of the department of Antioquia. He is married to Lina Uribe. They have two sons: Tomas and Jeronimo. Uribe holds a degree in law from the Universidad de Antioquia and a post-graduate degree in Management and Administration from Harvard University. From 1998 to 1999 after being awarded the Simon Bolivar fellowship by the British Council in Bogota, he worked as an associate professor at Oxford University.

Uribe went into public service at a very young age. In 1976 he became head of the Real Estate Office of the Public Works Department of Medellin. From 1977 to 1978 he was Secretary General of the Labor Ministry and from 1980 to 1982, head of the Civil Aviation Department.

He was the mayor of his native city of Medellin in 1982 and later, from 1984 to 1986, he was elected city councilor. Uribe was elected governor of the department of Antioquia for the 1995-1997 period, during which he developed a model of community participation in key government decisions such as the creation of new jobs, education, public procurement and security, which he called Community State.

He was elected Senator for the periods 1986-1990 and 1990-1994, terms during which he received the Star Senator, Senator with the Best Programs and Best Senator awards.

In May 2002, Uribe was elected President for the period of 2002-2006.

The Americas Project at the Center for American Progress is focused on the United States' relationship with and place in the Americas. The United States is in the midst of dramatic changes that will profoundly affect its future and are manifest both in the rapid growth of its Latino population and the ever-increasing interconnections with its neighbors throughout the Americas. Through rigorous research and open collaboration, The Americas Project seeks to more fully explore and understand those changes, the relationships among them, and their implications for progressive policy abroad and at home. The Americas Project endeavors to formulate innovative policy recommendations to address those changing realities and, through active engagement of all forms of media, effectively communicate its proposals to a wide range of audiences.

Tags: alvaro uribe, Bush, Center For American Progress, coca, cocaine, Colombia, drugs, Environment, Ethanol, free trade, Latin America, narco-trafficking, podesta, rainforest, tropical forests, Uribe (all tags)

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