"Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind"
-John F. Kennedy
Senator Álvaro Uribe Velez served as President of Colombia from 2002 to 2010. In this period, he managed to transform the country under his "Democratic Security" policy. Consisting of three main drivers, security, investment and social cohesion, Colombia witnessed how guerrilla groups were significantly diminished, the economy gained strength and the international community dramatically changed its perception of what was once considered a near failed State.
Sadly, the man who once did so much for his country is now obsessed with preventing Colombia's ultimate dream: a peace agreement that will finally end a senseless 50-year war.
Peace has been and will always be the most desirable and yet difficult achievement that any leader can aspire for his fellow citizens. Peace requires courage, perseverance, taking risks, and yes, engaging with the enemy across a table. Ever since current Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos announced the beginning of a peace process with the FARC guerrillas in Havana, Cuba two years ago, Mr. Uribe has fiercely resisted this idea. Arguing that Colombia is going to be overtaken by a "Casto-chavez bolivarian regime" and be ruled by the terrorists, he has dedicated himself to misinform the Colombian people and the international community through a very powerful but convenient way: Twitter.
Wouldn't a former president want peace for 47 million of his compatriots for which he "worked and worked and worked" -- his famous motto -- so intensely? Ironically, he did. According to Mr. Uribe's former peace commissioner Frank Pearl, during his administration, the former president secretly pursued peace negotiations with the FARC. His intentions were not only to negotiate with the guerrillas but also with the paramilitaries. And so he did, offering them a series of generous benefits in exchange for the group's demobilization under the "Peace and Justice Law."
The prospect of impunity and political participation by members of these armed groups are also part of the former president's fear-mongering attacks about the process. However, in 2003 during his UN General Assembly speech Mr. Uribe supported the suspension of prison sentences for all crimes, even the most atrocious, committed by any of the armed groups. The contradictions on the public record are staggering: the president who once negotiated and even suggested immunity for "terrorist" groups, now radically opposes an idea much much tougher than what he proposed.
Why? The only explanation suggests that with peace in Colombia at last, his war narrative, which once made him a beloved figure, will perish along with his political relevance. He has failed to understand Colombia's peace aspirations, which are the aspirations of any nation. War was necessary at some point but the purpose of all war is peace. Colombians are sick of it, too many dead and too many victims, mostly the poor and vulnerable.
The peace negotiation's international support has been critical to preserve its legitimacy. Enthusiastic messages are received constantly; from Pope Francis to the European Union, from Noble peace-prize winners to countless leaders -- including President Barack Obama, former U.S. president Bill Clinton, former British prime minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Angela Merkel, among many, many others -- all have expressed their unflinching support for peace in Colombia.
Incredibly, this has led Mr. Uribe and his party to begin touring the world with the sole purpose of trying to weaken this constant support by misleading the international community with unsupported fabrications. Paradoxically, during his administration, when local opposition leaders went to Washington to criticize the pending Colombia-US Free Trade Agreement, he did not hesitate to single them out as "traitors" and "unpatriotic."
What happened to Colombia's most popular and hard working president? Where did his patriotic spirit go? Why does he refuse to sit down with the government and contribute his experiences while also sharing his concerns? Why does he think that a self-absorbed social media strategy designed to bitterly divide Colombian society is better than constructive opposition? Why so much hatred when Colombia is shifting into reconciliation mode?
Whatever the answers to these questions, our people definitely prefer the old version of president Uribe. Recent polls show that for the first time his favorability dropped to unprecedented levels. Hopefully he will come to his senses in the near future and realize that if Colombia wants to live in peace, he must join the effort at making peace, not just attack it relentlessly. As Nelson Mandela said: 'Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people'... including their own ambitions.