U.S.-Colombian Relations: Moving Forward
At this Director's Forum, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe stated that the country's goal was to inspire "the highest level of confidence" within Colombia and abroad. During a session chaired by Woodrow Wilson Center President and Director Lee H. Hamilton and co-sponsored by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Council of the Americas, Uribe discussed three pillars upon which confidence was based:
- Security with democratic values
- Investment with social responsibility
- Social cohesion
Security with Democratic Values
In the security arena, Uribe underscored "the progress we have made" as well as the "need to do much more." Uribe affirmed that the democratic security policy had permitted the state's recovery of two monopolies, to fight criminals (narco-traffickers and narco-guerrillas) and to administer justice. Today, he said, Colombians have recovered trust in state institutions to provide security and justice. Moreover, despite the enormous wealth of terrorist organizations involved in narco-trafficking, Colombia has confronted the challenge they pose through ordinary legislation, not martial law. Political and civil rights enshrined in the Constitution have been respected, along with freedom of the press. More than 220,000 victims of violence have registered claims through the judicial system and are awaiting reparation. The monetary component of reparation has been undertaken at a time of fiscal constraints and represents an important step toward establishing the social conditions for full reconciliation in Colombia.
Investment with Social Responsibility
Uribe defined multiple dimensions of social responsibility, including transparency in the relationships between the government and private investors and "fraternity in the relationship between employers and workers." Claiming to chart a middle course between "untamed capitalism" and "social class hatred," Uribe mentioned labor, pension, health sector, and other reforms and the restructuring of hundreds of state institutions, including the intelligence service.
Uribe emphasized the importance of socially responsible investment to overcome poverty and inequality in Colombia. The overall rate of investment has more than doubled during his administration, he said, and Colombia has been successful in attracting foreign direct investment. Although the rate has declined in light of the world recession, the Colombian economy has continued to perform comparatively well. Colombia is friendly toward investment, Uribe said, in contrast to the hostility prevailing in some parts of Latin America.
Uribe discussed important advances in the educational arena, including the expansion of basic education and university enrollment, as well as increases in student loans, vocational training, and English-language instruction. Poverty rates have dropped from 60 percent to 37-43 percent, and 2.7 million poor families receive a bimonthly government subsidy to ensure their children's attendance in school.
Uribe acknowledged that although there are still many problems in Colombia, his administration is actively addressing them. In closing, he underscored the importance of preserving investment confidence, and the desire to make Colombia "the most attractive country for domestic and international investors" committed to social responsibility.