Uribe’s Re-election: Can the EU Help Colombia Develop a More Balanced Peace Strategy?
Uribe’s Re-election: Can the EU Help Colombia Develop a More Balanced Peace Strategy?
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  1. Executive Summary
Report 17 / Latin America & Caribbean 2 minutes

Uribe’s Re-election: Can the EU Help Colombia Develop a More Balanced Peace Strategy?

On 28 May 2006, President Álvaro Uribe won a second four-year term in a landslide.

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Executive Summary

On 28 May 2006, President Alvaro Uribe won a second four-year term in a landslide. The first re-election of a sitting Colombian president in more than a century, combined with 12 March congressional elections which produced a pro-Uribe majority and saw the demise of the traditional Liberal-Conservative party system, heralds a profound change in the political landscape. While the outcomes could hardly have been better for Uribe, he now needs to get tough on impunity ­and diversify an anti-insurgency policy that has been almost exclusively military if he is to move Colombia towards the end of its 40-year armed conflict. The international community, and specifically the European Union (EU), can help by urging a new balance between the president’s favoured security policies and the social and economic measures that are needed to get at root causes.

Speedy government action in five core policy areas is required: reinserting into society more than 35,000 former paramilitaries, who present a high risk of turning into an uncontrollable crime problem, and rigorously implementing the Justice and Peace Law (JPL) so that their leaders do not escape with their crimes unpunished and their political influence intact; fully investigating new charges of links between the secret police (Security Administrative Department, DAS) and the paramilitaries; promoting and defending human rights and international humanitarian law more decisively; fighting drug trafficking; and overcoming the humanitarian crisis.

The Uribe administration should not overestimate its own political strength and its successes of the past four years. The president will be hard pressed to hold together a majority in Congress that is far from solid and lacks both programmatic depth and internal cohesion. There have been clear security advances but human rights violations, the demobilised paramilitaries’ political and economic power and criminal activities and the difficulties associated with their reinsertion, the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) remaining military capacity and the failure of anti-drug policy remain serious concerns. A second Uribe government must not only maintain its military strategy against the guerrillas but also give priority to designing a new and comprehensive, three-tier National Peace and Development Strategy that incorporates rural governance, regional/municipal development and restructured demobilisation programs, as well as a strong effort to pursue negotiations with the guerrillas.

His campaign statements and election-night victory speech suggest Uribe may not yet be prepared to make such policy departures. The international community, in particular the EU and its member states as well as the United Nations (UN) and the U.S., should urge him to do so and then make a major contribution to the design and implementation of the new strategy. The goal should be multilateral cooperation geared at achieving much greater synergy between government, civil society and donors.

Since 2000, the EU has focused on helping address the underlying causes of the conflict and building the foundations for peace “from below”. Although it has encountered difficulties, including sometimes hostile Uribe administration attitudes, its flagship peace laboratories program could become a catalyst for the design and implementation of a substantial part of the proposed National Peace and Development Strategy and the basis for strategic partnerships between the Colombian government, the EU and its member states, the U.S., the United Nations Development Programme and other UN agencies in the country. The most promising forum in which to work this out is the G-24 group that was formed several years ago to assist Colombia. If it is to perform this role, however, the group will need to be imbued with new political life and enhanced technical capacity.

Bogotá/Brussels, 8 June 2006

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