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Thursday, June 8, 2006
Uribe’s Second Term
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:44 pm

Andres Oppenheimer, writing in the Miami Herald is concerned about Uribe and his second term: Biggest threat to Colombia’s Uribe: his own success

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the biggest threat to U.S.-backed Colombian President Alvaro Uribe following his landslide reelection Sunday will not be his country’s Marxist guerrillas but the temptation to seek a third term in office.

History tells us that this is not a frivolous conjecture. Uribe, who was reelected by a 40-point margin over his closest rival, will control nearly 80 percent of Congress and much of the Supreme Court. He will have a hard time resisting claims by his most fervent followers that he is ‘’el hombre indispensable'’ (the indispensable man) to get Colombia out of its historic quagmire.

Well, while I do understand the concern, I don’t think it is one that requires much angst in this case. For one thing, to try and extrapolate what Uribe may or may not be tempted to do by looking at the whole of Latin American history is poor reasoning. Colombia has never fit any of the major patterns or trends of Latin America. Further, it is questionable as to whether one can even speak with sufficient cogency about there being such prevailing trends in the region.

Second, it is a radical over-simplification to state that Uribe will have such a large amount of control in the Colombian congress. We are not talking about a single party to which Uribe and the legislators in question belong to. Uribe is an independent and the congressional seats in question come from a coalition of numerous parties which supported Uribe’s bid for re-election, but which hardly are monolithically allied with the president. Indeed, many in those parties are hoping that they, or one of their co-partisans, will be vying for the presidency in 2010.

Further, the Supreme Court has been more than willing to spurn Uribe’s requests during his first term, and I see no reason to assume that that behavior will be altered during his second.

Oppenheimer’s examples of executives who didn’t know when to quite are: Carlos Menem of Argentina, Alberto Fujimori of Peru and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Uribe has not exhibited any behaviors to date that would suggest that any of these are cases that he is likely to emulate.

Still, I do understand the general concern:

Power clouds even the most intelligent minds. And while Uribe is one of the most down-to-earth presidents I have known — he dresses humbly, doesn’t walk as if he had swallowed a broomstick and avoids talking about himself in the third person, as if he were larger than life — he will have a hard time keeping a cool head after the latest election.

However, it seems to me that the following assessment is likely correct:

Others say that Uribe’s low-key personality, Colombia’s historically strong institutions and the emergence of a new democratic left, which will have a vocal minority in Congress, will help the country fend off authoritarian temptations.

‘’As opposed to Chávez and Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, Uribe has a good chance of avoiding a personality cult and of institutionalizing his policies,'’ says Eduardo Gamarra, head of Florida International University’s Latin American and Caribbean Center. “There are already Uribe followers in the Senate and other places who are leadership options for the future.'’

More to the point, the constitution of Colombia currently limts the president to two terms total:

ARTICULO 197. Nadie podrá ser elegido para ocupar la Presidencia de la República por más de dos períodos.

I find it highly unlikely that the Congress would be willing to amend the constitution again so as to allow three.

As such, I think that Oppenheimer is off the mark with too much concern over the notion that Uribe will be seeking a third term.

h/t: The Latin Americanist

Filed under: Colombia, 2006 Presidential Elections | |Send TrackBack

Publius Pundit - Blogging the democratic revolution linked with [...] hink he’s got an airtight rebuttal. I agree with him strongly. Read this whole thing here. Meanwhile, Mary Anastasia O’Grady had a good piece in the Wall Street Journal from last week, whi [...]


  1. I definitely agree with your assessment that “Colombia has never fit any of the major patterns or trends of Latin America.” That statement alone says so many things…

    Btw, while not a promise per se, in a June 4 interview to “El Tiempo” Uribe specifically rejected such a proposed third term.

    Comment by JCG — Thursday, June 8, 2006 @ 9:22 pm

  2. […] hink he’s got an airtight rebuttal. I agree with him strongly. Read this whole thing here. Meanwhile, Mary Anastasia O’Grady had a good piece in the Wall Street Journal from last week, whi […]

    Pingback by Publius Pundit - Blogging the democratic revolution — Friday, June 9, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

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